Although criminal defendants are generally processed the same way in all fifty states, there are some state-to-state differences in criminal procedure that those accused of a crime in New Hampshire should be aware of.
If you are arrested in the state of New Hampshire, the arresting officer must give you a Miranda warning. A Miranda warning relates to your right to remain silent during an arrest. Furthermore, the issued Miranda warning must go on to state that whatever you say can and will be used against you in court. As part of this same warning, the officer must advise you of your right to an attorney and that the court will appoint you one should you not be able to afford one. Upon arrest, you will be taken to a detention facility. There, you will be processed by having your photograph and fingerprints taken. Any personal items would be taken from you at this point to be stored. You may have access to a phone to arrange for bail.
Depending on your offense, you may be eligible to be released on bail. The bail agent will be the person determining the amount of your bail. If a family member of friend has the available funds to post your bail amount, then no collateral is needed. If not, he or she must pay a premium of approximately 10% of the bail amount to secure a bond.
Arraignment and Plea
An arraignment for a misdemeanor case is held in district court. Either the defendant or attorney can enter a plea. An arraignment for a felony case is held in superior court. Here, a defendant doesn’t enter a plea until a probable cause hearing is either held or waived. Pleas include a plea of guilty, not guilty, or “nolo contendre.”
The Plea Bargain Process
Plea bargains are encouraged by the courts because of overflowing court calendars and jails. When weighing the possibility of accepting a plea bargain, attorneys will consider many factors including the strength of evidence against their clients. Should the decision be made to accept a plea bargain, a plea of “guilty” is entered to a lesser charge or a reduction in sentence is issued with the court’s approval.
Grand Jury and Preliminary Hearing
In felony cases, a preliminary hearing is next held to determine probable cause. If the defendant is in custody, the hearing is held 10 days after the arraignment. If the defendant is not in custody, the hearing is held 20 days after the arraignment. In cases where the prosecution seeks an indictment by grand jury, there is no preliminary hearing should the grand jury issue an indictment.
Bench or Jury Trial
Unless the criminal statutes state otherwise, trials in district court are usually heard by a judge. This is also known as a bench trial. Trials in superior court can be either a bench or jury trial. A jury trial is comprised of twelve individuals, who must unanimously find the defendant guilty, beyond a reasonable doubt.
In a misdemeanor case, sentencing may be held immediately following or sometime after a guilty verdict. By contrast, in a felony case, the sentencing hearing is scheduled after a pre-sentence report is prepared and submitted to the judge.
If you are charged with a criminal offense in New Hampshire, you need an experienced and effective criminal defense attorney familiar with New Hampshire law to represent you immediately. The criminal defense lawyers at Wilson, Bush, Durkin & Keefe have the proven record of success to defend you when you need it the most. Contact us today with all of your criminal law needs.