Following an arrest in New Hampshire, it is important to be familiar with your constitutional rights and what the criminal process typically looks like. Navigating the complicated legal process can be overwhelming, and you may benefit from the experience of private counsel. Having proper representation can make all the difference in the outcome of a criminal case. In this article, we will first discuss the different types of criminal charges in New Hampshire, then we’ll move on to an overview of the New Hampshire criminal trial process.
Types of Criminal Charges in New Hampshire
- Violation – A violation refers to a non-criminal offense. These offenses can carry fines up to $1000.00 and for some offenses a loss of license.
- Class B Misdemeanor – A Class B Misdemeanor is a criminal offense that can carry a fine up to $1200.00, as well as things like a loss of license, alcohol classes, loss of the ability to possess a firearm, restitution, but does not carry any jail time. Because Class B Misdemeanors do not carry jail time, a public defender will not be appointed to a person charged with this type of offense, so it is important to contact an attorney right away if you are being charged with this type of criminal offense
- Class A Misdemeanor – A type of criminal offense that carries fines of up to $2000.00 and potentially up to 1 year in the House of Correction as well as things like a loss of license, alcohol classes, loss of the ability to possess a firearm and restitution.
- Class B Felony – A Class B Felony is a criminal offense that can carry up to a $4000.00 fine and up to 7 years in a New Hampshire State Prison.
- Class A Felony – A type of criminal offense that can carry large fines and up to 15 years in the New Hampshire State Prison.
- Special Felonies – These are felonies that are not categorized as a Class A or B, but carry their own individual penalties, like drug offenses.
It is important to note that the information listed above is a general guideline, and there are several factors that determine fines and prison sentences— being charged with any of the above types of criminal offenses does not guarantee that you will incur the specific fine or prison time listed.
What is the Criminal Trial Process in New Hampshire?
There are several events that will occur following an arrest. Below we’ll discuss the order in which each event typically takes place and what you can expect to happen during each step.
- Bail — After an arrest, a defendant will usually be entitled to bail. How much bail you need to post depends upon several factors. A new law in the state of New Hampshire requires judges and bail commissioners to take into account how much a defendant can reasonably afford before they set bail. The law also allows dangerous and violent offenders to be held without any bail at all, as long as it can be proven that they are dangerous. It is also possible for a person with no prior criminal record who is not being charged with a violent offense to be released on Personal Recognizance bail– meaning no bail needs to be posted at the time of release.
- Arraignment — In most violation and misdemeanor cases, a defendant’s first court appearance is called the arraignment. At an arraignment, a defendant is formally charged with a crime and must enter a plea. The arraignment takes place at the district court. At this time, you can plea one of three ways— Guilty, Not Guilty and No Contest. However, it is not usually in a defendant’s best interest to plead guilty at arraignment. It is important to discuss how you intend to plea with your attorney before the arraignment.
- Discovery — You are entitled to receive all the police reports, photographs, witness statements, or any other evidence the State intends to use to prove your guilt. You may be able to obtain this information before the arraignment. You need to make the request in writing and the information will be mailed to you.
- Trial — Trials in New Hampshire take place in the District Court for violations and misdemeanors, in front of a single judge. Felony cases are always heard in Superior Court where the defendant then has the right to pick either a single judge trial or a jury trial. The defendant may appeal the guilty decision to the New Hampshire Supreme Court within 30 days. The Supreme Court can overturn a conviction if an error of law was made during the trial.
Navigating the process after being charged with a crime can feel overwhelming, but an experienced criminal lawyer will help you make decisions that are in your best interest and can make the process a lot easier to understand. Schedule a free consultation today to start working with the best criminal attorneys in New Hampshire.