, Derry, New Hampshire

November 9, 2011

Don't ignore a summons from the court

About the Law
Andrew Myers

I've been served with notice of a court hearing I can't make. The papers set up a show cause hearing in a few weeks and I cannot make it due to work. What should I do?

Sometimes people question "lawyer talk". But, in this case, I object to the form of the question. The question assumes the wrong priority. When served with court papers requiring an appearance on a certain date, that is your priority over everything else. It is work or the other stuff that you can't make at that time on that day and you need to make all efforts in advance to seek an accommodation.

Sometimes, working far enough in advance, hearings can be "continued" or rescheduled. But the sooner this is attempted, the higher the likelihood of achieving this goal.

Another alternative, working in advance, is to bring this up with your supervisor and to ask for the time off.

If you simply ignore the papers, your problems will be much worse than missing a day's work.

Finally, on the civil side in New Hampshire, summonses give a return date on the first Tuesday of a month in the future. This does not require a physical appearance in the courtroom, but does require that papers be filed indicating that a defense is raised.

Again, unique to New Hampshire practice, this can often, but not always, be accomplished by filing a form available at the court or its website called, appropriately an "appearance." This acts as a general denial of everything in the civil case.

Can I get a DUI while on marijuana instead of alcohol? Or does it only apply to alcohol? How can they prove it?

Yes, in New Hampshire, there are two subsections to the drunken driving statute. By now, pretty much anyone who reads a newspaper knows or should know that it is a violation with serious consequences to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 for anyone over 21.

Anyone under 21 with a 0.02 or more also faces serious consequences. That is RSA 265-A2(b). However, section (a) of the same statute has a broader standard: that the operator is under the influence "of intoxicating liquor or any controlled drug or any combination of intoxicating liquor and controlled drugs."

Under this section marijuana, as proven in a THC blood sample, leads to a conviction. There are various guidelines for acceptable levels of various substances, legal and otherwise.

Just because a physician prescribes something that is available in a big box pharmacy or elsewhere does not make it legal to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of that substance beyond a certain level or if it impairs operation of the vehicle.

Under this section, prosecutors must demonstrate to the court that the operator demonstrated that they were impaired at the time of the conduct that caused the vehicle stop.

• • •

Andrew Myers of Derry has law offices in Derry and North Andover. He is a member of the American Association for Justice and the New Hampshire Trial Lawyers Association. Send questions to