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What’s the Process of a Criminal Law Trial in New Hampshire?

A criminal trial usually begins with an arrest. That arrest must be based on probable cause. If a police officer makes an arrest, the charge will be prosecuted in either district or superior court, depending on the nature of the charge.

The criminal trial process begins with an arrest based on probable cause. Probable cause in New Hampshire is determined on a case-by-case basis by examining the totality of the circumstances in each case. Probable cause exists when an officer has knowledge and trustworthy information to warrant a person of reasonable caution and prudence to believe an arrestee has committed an offense. This prerequisite of Probable Cause is set forth by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution to protect citizens against illegal search and seizure of person, property or home in a criminal case. If you have been arrested you will most often be given a court date by way of bail conditions or a summons. That Court date is almost always an arraignment.

Bail Will be Set

Bail is set by a judge or bail commissioner in New Hampshire. Bail is a monetary stipulation to ensure a defendant’s appearance in court. Bail may also consist of conditions that the defendant must not violate in order to stay out of jail. Types of bail are personal recognizance or cash bail. Personal recognizance requires no money be paid to the court for bail, but instead is a promise that the accused will appear in court on the date set forth. Cash bail requires the defendant to submit an amount of money paid to the court. If the funds required are not paid to the court, the defendant will remain in jail.

The Level of the Alleged Crime is Important

  • Violations – Non-criminal offenses such as a traffic tickets. These offenses can carry a fine up to $1000.00.
  • Class B Misdemeanors – Criminal offenses that can carry a fine of usually up to $1200.00, but do not carry any jail time.
  • Class A Misdemeanors – Criminal offenses that usually carry fines of up to $2000.00 and up to 1 year in the House of Correction.
  • Class B Felony – Criminal offenses that usually carry up to a $4000.00 fine and 3.5 to 7 years in the New Hampshire State Prison.
  • Class A Felony – Criminal offenses that can usually carry large fines and 7.5 to 15 years in the New Hampshire State Prison.

Depending on which level the crime meets, the process could look different.

Initial Court Hearings

When charged with a felony offense, there will be an arraignment to take a plea, set bail and the date of the next hearing. Usually that hearing is a Dispositional Conference. Occasionally the matter is scheduled for a Probable Cause Hearing prior to the Dispositional Conference.

For less serious crimes, like violations and misdemeanors, a trial is often the next hearing after the arraignment.

The Discovery Process

The State is required to provide the defendant with any evidence, including police reports, photographs, witness statements, or any other evidence the State intends to use at trial.

The Trial

In a New Hampshire criminal case, misdemeanors are heard in District Court in front of a judge. Felonies are heard in Superior Court and are most often jury trials.

Your criminal attorney can help you determine which options are best for you depending on what the charge is. A successful criminal defense is important during the entire process. Consult our New Hampshire attorneys today for help on your specific criminal charge. For more information and a free consultation with one of our attorneys, contact Seufert Law Offices, P.A. by calling (603) 934-9837 today.