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New Hampshire Criminal Law: An Overview

Are you facing criminal charges in the state of New Hampshire? How will you find an experienced criminal lawyer? What penalties might you be facing? And what about the possibility of jail time?

Prepare yourself by learning about your local criminal justice system and criminal law in general.

Is Marijuana Legal in New Hampshire?

Technically, the answer is no, marijuana is not legal in New Hampshire. Possessing, cultivating, or selling weed is still illegal under New Hampshire state law and federal law. However, New Hampshire state law has decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use. Possession of up to three-fourths of an ounce of marijuana is not an arrestable offense, nor will it go on your criminal record.

Possession of less than three-fourths of an ounce on first offense has a penalty of $100. Anyone 21 and older caught with marijuana-infused products like drinks or edibles faces the same fine.

Possession of more than this amount bumps the charge up from a criminal violation to a misdemeanor drug possession. You could face up to one year in prison, a fine of up to $350, and a permanent criminal record.

Anyone with a qualifying medical condition is eligible for the New Hampshire Therapeutic Cannabis Program.

Misdemeanors in New Hampshire

The state of New Hampshire defines a misdemeanor as a crime punishable by either a fine or no more than 12 months in jail.

Two classes of misdemeanors exist in New Hampshire:

Class A misdemeanors: include crimes such as simple assault, stalking, and property damage from $100 to $1,000 which is known as criminal mischief. Class A Misdemeanor penalties are punishable by a fine of no more than $2,000 and no more than 12 months in jail.

Class B misdemeanors: includes driving while intoxicated (DWI) for first offense only, as well as other non-violent crimes. Penalties for Class B misdemeanors may involve license suspension or revocation for certain crimes such as DWIs, or possibly an additional fine of up to $1,200.

More Serious Charges: Felonies

Felonies are the most severe criminal charges. There are two classes within this category of criminal cases.

Each felony class is punishable by a maximum penalty as defined by state statute. In addition, a judge also may order you to pay a fine. While the courts may go over the maximum prison sentence in cases where the defendant is a repeat offender, the courts cannot reduce a mandatory minimum.

  • Class A felony: This class includes violent crimes and criminal offenses like murder, drug crimes, and property theft valued at or more than $1,000. Class A felony convictions are punishable by a fine of up to $4,000 and a maximum prison sentence ranging from 7.5 years to 15 years. In some cases, the most severe penalties – including life in prison without the possibility of parole or the death penalty – may apply.
  • Class B felony: This category includes property theft valued between $500 and $1,000, DWI (fourth or higher offenses), and computer fraud. Class B felonies are punishable by a fine of up to $2,000 and a prison sentence of a minimum of 3.5 years and a maximum of seven.

Both misdemeanor and felony convictions will remain a permanent part of your criminal record in New Hampshire, potentially making it harder to find a job or secure housing in the future.

New Hampshire Drunk Driving Laws

There are severe penalties for drunk driving in New Hampshire. Drunk driving is commonly referred to as driving while intoxicated (DWI) and driving under the influence (DUI). If you refuse a breath test to determine your blood alcohol content (BAC) level, you automatically lose your license for 180 days under the state’s implied consent law.

New Hampshire law states that a BAC of over .08% will result in a DWI/DUI for anyone of legal drinking age. Police officers can also charge you with a DWI if your BAC is below the legal limit if they believe your driving is impaired. One glass of wine during happy hour after work could result in a DWI charge if law enforcement catches you speeding or passing another motor vehicle improperly due to driving under the influence.

For those under the age of 21, BAC rules are much stricter at just .02%.

In general, DWI/DUI penalties on a first offense may include:

  • Losing your license for a minimum of 90 days and a maximum of two years
  • Having to pay a license reinstatement fee of $100 before being able to drive again
  • Mandatory installation of an ignition interlock system on your car

Note that a DWI charge is the same as many driving under the influence (DUI) charges in other states. New Hampshire also has a drugged driving law on the books. Anyone caught driving with detectable levels of any illegal drugs in their system will face criminal charges. Working with a criminal defense lawyer can help you establish a strong DUI defense and avoid additional legal issues.

Connecting with a Criminal Defense Lawyer

Who you choose for your legal representation can make all the difference in your case. You need to trust the legal advice you receive and trust the attorney-client relationship. Here are a few suggested factors to consider before hiring a criminal lawyer:

  • Does the law firm represent clients who face criminal charges similar to your own? What are their main practice areas?
  • Does the law office offer a free consultation so you can to discuss your criminal case? Do you trust the initial legal advice they give you during the free consultation?
  • Did the criminal defense attorney attend a reputable law school? Are they a member of the state bar association or criminal law division of the bar association? Other organizations?
  • How many years of experience do they have? Were they a public defender or prosecutor at any point in their career as a trial lawyer?
  • Do they have a proven track record in criminal law with jury trials as a criminal defense attorney?
  • Do they have experience in federal court or district court?

Depending on your circumstances and the criminal charges you face, these questions may help you evaluate trial lawyers and criminal defense attorneys in order to choose the one best suited to resolving your matter.

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