Jessica’s Law – If you’re the kind of person who gets on the road without clearing the snow off of your car’s roof, New Hampshire has a special law for you. In this state, we have “Jessica’s Law,” which prohibits driving “negligently,” or a manner that endangers or is “likely to endanger” any person or property. The penalty is a ticket for $250 to $500 (or $500 to $1000 if this is not your first offense).
In this area’s first storm alone, NH State Police issued 56 tickets under this law. These 56 people and the countless others who will be ticketed over the course of the season will be surprised to learn that they face much greater consequences beyond the ticket.
What Are the Penalties?
First, there could be a license suspension. A judge can order that a person’s license be suspended for up to 30 days “for any cause which he may deem sufficient.” Chances are that your judge lives in New Hampshire, too, and that she cleans off the roof of her car before driving. If you want to keep your license, you don’t want to be in a position where you have to explain why you didn’t do something that everyone else seems able to do.
Second, this is a “major” offense on your driving record. Besides having your insurance rates go up, you are substantially closer to having your license suspended by the DMV. There are two ways that convictions threaten your driving privileges for repeat offenses: the demerit (points) system and the habitual offender law. People who have as few as two or three traffic violations within three to five years could be called into the DMV to have their license taken away for up to four years. The DMV has its own set of laws that are different from the court and can be extremely complicated for people unfamiliar with administrative hearings.
Finally, if anyone gets hurt, you’re on the hook for the damages. If the snow on the roof of your car causes damage to a car, obstructed vision, or loss of control over a car, the other driver (or the other driver’s insurance company) will be coming to you for payment. If it’s proven that the failure to clear the roof had anything to do with the injuries, you will not escape liability. This is called “per se negligence,” and it means the injured person doesn’t have to prove anything more than the fact that your violation of Jessica’s Law caused the injuries.
Whatever side of the snow you find yourself, an experienced lawyer can help you navigate the courts and get the best result for your case. To get started, call Jared Bedrick at Douglas, Leonard & Garvey, P.C., (603) 288-1403 or fill out our online contact form.