Hands Free Law
New Hampshire’s hands-free law, RSA 265:79-c, was passed in 2014 and went into effect July 1, 2015. Another law relating to this topic, RSA 265:105-a, prohibits a driver of a motor vehicle from writing a text message while driving. We have listed several additional statutes which could also apply to a driver using hand-held electronic devices while driving. That kind of behavior could be brought as a civil offense under either reckless driving, vehicular assault, or negligent driving, under RSA 265:79, 79-a or 79-b, respectively, or, if severe enough, could become a criminal offense as defined in RSA 626:2.
- RSA 265. Rules of the Road
See RSA 265:79. Reckless Driving; Minimum Penalty, RSA 265:79-a. Vehicular Assault, RSA 265:79-b. Negligent Driving, RSA 265:79-c. Use of Mobile Electronic Devices while Driving; Prohibition and RSA 265:105-a. Prohibited Text Messages and Device Usage While Operating a Motor Vehicle.
- RSA 626. General Principles
See RSA 626:2, II(c). General Requirements of Culpability
New Hampshire Cases
- State v. Dion. 164 N.H. 544 (2013)
Citing RSA 265:105–a (Supp.2012), which prohibits “text messaging” while driving, the defendant asserts that talking on a cell phone while driving is not prohibited and, therefore, cannot constitute the requisite blameworthy conduct. Contrary to the defendant’s argument, however, conduct that is, itself, not prohibited, including use of a cell phone while driving, may constitute the requisite blameworthy conduct when such use results in inattention or distraction. Indeed, “the state had no burden to show that driving while using a cell phone is always risky or dangerous, or that it, of itself, creates a substantial and unjustifiable risk, only that [the defendant’s] use of a cell phone in this case created a substantial and unjustifiable risk because it interfered with her ability to maintain a proper lookout for [pedestrians].” The issue here is not whether cell phone use while driving is per se blameworthy. Rather, the issue is whether inattention caused by cell phone use or any other “legal” activity, resulting in the failure to avoid a pedestrian in a crosswalk, demonstrates a level of carelessness the seriousness of which should be “apparent to anyone who shares the community’s general sense of right and wrong.”
- State v. Belleville. 166 N.H. 58 (2014)
[T]he difference between recklessness and negligence is that a person is reckless if he is aware of and consciously disregards a substantial risk that a material element of the crime exists or will result from his conduct, whereas one is negligent when he fails to become aware of a substantial risk that an essential element of the crime exists or will result from his conduct.
New Hampshire Court Orders
- 2016-0198. State v. Lemieux
The defendant, David Richard Lemieux, appeals his conviction following a bench trial in Circuit Court (Gardner, J.) for the violation-level offense of driving while using a hand-held electronic device. See RSA 265:79-c (Supp. 2015). He contends that: (1) the evidence was not sufficient to support his conviction; (2) the trial court erred by not making specific findings of fact and rulings of law; and (3) the statute is unconstitutionally vague.
New Hampshire Regulations
Motor vehicle convictions under the statutes listed above can result in disqualification for some jobs.
- Saf-C 902.06. Serious Traffic Violations
- Saf-C 1304.03 Disqualification of Applicant.
- Saf-C 1809.02 Serious Traffic Violations
- Saf-C 3106.01 (e) (43). Disqualification of Applicant
- Saf-C 5302.01. Instructor Qualifications.