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In New Hampshire, a person with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher is presumed to be impaired by alcohol. Blood or breath test results will likely be used as evidence of alcohol impairment in court at a DUI trial.  But additionally, a BAC of .08 or higher will trigger an administrative license suspension (ALS).  ALS hearings take place at the New Hampshire Department of Safety and are separate from court proceedings.  New Hampshire DUI lawyers typically represent clients both in court on the DUI charge and at the ALS hearing. 

Does this mean that if my BAC is below a .08 I cannot be charged with a DUI in New Hampshire?  No.  New Hampshire law defines driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) as impairment to any degree.  Other evidence, such as erratic driving, performance on field sobriety tests, or an admission to drinking alcohol will likely be used by prosecutors who are seeking a DUI conviction.  Experienced DUI lawyers carefully review video and other evidence of allegedly erratic driving.  They are trained in field sobriety testing and will challenge unfairly or improperly administered tests.  And knowledgeable lawyers will defend your constitutional rights when police questioning violates Miranda rights or police searches are unlawful.

How can I can I challenge a BAC result or fight a DUI charge? Consult with an experienced DUI lawyer, who represents clients both in court and at ALS hearings.  Ask questions about the process, what evidence will be most important in your case, and ask the lawyer to explain the potential outcomes and how they might affect your driving privileges and criminal record.  The lawyers at Samdperil & Welsh, PLLC are experienced DUI trial lawyers, trained in how police conduct testing and how BAC results may be misleading or wrong. They sit down with every client to review the strengths and weaknesses of the evidence, counsel and advise about the potential outcomes, and help the client make the best decision about how to proceed in their case. 

In 2020, the New Hampshire Legislature passed HB 1645 which, among other things, made certain changes to the current annulment statute.  Under the new law, the annulment period for any misdemeanor crime of domestic violence under RSA 631:2-b was increased to 10 years.  Because the annulment statute requires that the time frame for annulment be met for all offenses on a person’s criminal record before that person may apply to annul any single offense, this change may result in a significant delay in annulment eligibility for persons with any domestic violence conviction on thie record.  If you have questions about whether you are eligible for annulment, please feel free to contact us.

If you have been living on the New Hampshire Seacoast for a long time, you may remember when the Hampton District Court was located in the historic Old Hampton Grammar School (and also one-time firehouse) at the corner of Winnacunnet Road and Academy Avenue in downtown Hampton. The old courthouse was closed in 2005 due to black mold and other issues, and the building was demolished in 2013. The court moved to a “temporary” location in Seabrook, and, as part of a judicial branch reorganization, the was later renamed the 10th Circuit Court – District Division – Seabrook. The temporary courthouse, which was located on the first floor of an office building, was often overcrowded, difficult to find, and had limited parking.

In 2016, a new site for the courthouse was finally secured, once again in Hampton, and in January of 2019 the new Hampton courthouse opened. The court, now called the 10th Circuit Court – District Division – Hampton, is located at 3 Timber Swamp Road in Hampton (click here for directions). The court has jurisdiction over misdemeanor and motor vehicle cases from the towns of Hampton, Hampton Falls, North Hampton, South Hampton, and Seabrook.plus the New Hampsire State Police and other state agencies.

The new Hampton courthouse is less than 4.5 miles from Samdperil & Welsh, PLLC. Our attorneys frequently represent clients in that court in a range of matters, including DUI’s, drug offenses, and theft-related charges. Please feel free to contact us if we can assist you with your case.

In New Hampshire, any person charged with a criminal offense will receive either a summons to appear in court, be released on bail pending his or her court appearance, or be detained pending his or her first court appearance.  A person released on bail will typically receive a “Bond in Criminal Case” form from a bail commissioner, which lists the offenses charged, the court where the charges are being filed, and the date of the arraignment.

Arraignment – An arraignment is an intial court appearance by a person who is charged with a crime (the defendant).  At a formal arraignment, the defendant must be provided a copy of the Complaint or Complaints (a written statement of the essential facts supporting the offense or offenses charged) and may typically enter a plea of either guilty or not guilty.  In many cases, particularly offenses that are punishable by jail or a loss of license, it is advisable for a defendant to plead not guilty at the arraignment so that he or she may consult with a lawyer and examine the different legal options.  If the defendant is detained (held in jail in lieu of bail or without bail) pending arraignment, his or her arraignment must be scheduled within 24 hours (excluding weekends and holidays).  If the defendant is not detained prior to arraignment, his or her arraignment is usually scheduled soon thereafter.

Waiving the Arraignment – A defendant charged with a class A misdemeanor or a felony may waive arraignment only if he or she is represented by a lawyer and that lawyer files a “waiver of arraignment and entry of not guilty” form with the court prior to the date of arraignment.  If the waiver of arraignment form is timely filed and approved by the judge, the defendant will often not need to appear in court on the date of the arraignment.

Summons – A person who fails to appear in response to a summons may be charged with a misdemeanor.  However, as with misdemeanor and felony charges, a person who receives a summons for a misdemeanor or violation level offense may, through their lawyer, waive formal arraignment in advance.

If you have other questions about bail, felony or misdmeanor arraignments, or representation in a Circuit Court or Superior Court matter, please give us a call.  We have experience with handling all types of matters in New Hampshire courts.

For a number of years, the Common Application, a single form that students can fill out to apply to any college that uses it, required applicants to disclose any arrest, whether or not it resulted in a conviction.  However, the non-profit organization behind the Common App. has announced that, starting in 2019, it will no longer ask students about their criminal history.  Individual institutions may still make these inquiries, and may have different policies about how they use this information in admissions, or whether they share this information about students who are accepted.  To read more, click here.

Even though colleges and universities may not be looking at applicants’ criminal records for the purpose of admissions, the federal government still considers certain criminal convictions – notably, drug offenses, including marijuana possession – when determining eligibility for federal financial aid. For more information about how a drug conviction may affect a student’s FAFSA eligibilty, click here. Many students do not realize that even a non-criminal conviction for a small amount of marijuana may make them ineligible for federal aid for a year or more.  Similarly, certain scholarships and school aid packages are awarded upon conditions that include remaining arrest free.

At Samdperil & Welsh, PLLC, we work with students and their families to minimize the impact of an arrest or conviction on a young person’s college and professional career.  Our lawyers counsel clients about the potential impact of their criminal charges, and can often use alternative sentencing and diversion to the benefit of our younger clients. If we can help, give us a call.

Since June 10, 2016, New Hampshire has sanctioned therapeutic cannabis (medical marijuana), and allows for up to 2 ounces of usable cannabis for a “qualifying patient.”  Effective September 16, 2017, New Hampshire decriminalized personal use amounts of marijuana (3/4 of an ounce or less), hashish (5 grams or less), and certain marijuana-infused products for persons over age 21.  Possession of these amounts is still a misdemeanor criminal offense for anyone under age 21, or for someone with 4 or more convictions within a 3 year period.  It is also a crime for adults in New Hampshire to negligently store marijuana-infused products, to possess more than the alotted amounts, or to operate a motor vehicle under the influence of any drug. Here are some important things to remember about New Hampshire’s marijuana laws:

  • Marijuana has been decriminalized, but is still not legal in New Hampshire.  Unless you are an authorized medical marijuana patient, marijuana is still against the law and is punishable by fines.
  • Marijuana possession is still a crime under federal law, and a conviction for possessing even small amounts of marijuana may still impact federal aid, such as education grants and loans. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) still asks if applicants have been convicted for the possession or sale of illegal drugs for an offense that occurred while you were receiving federal student aid.
  • Persons under age 21 face more severe consequences for possession, and may lose driving privileges for certain offenses.
  • A person who receives a summons for possessing a personal use amount of marijuana must return the summons within 30 days.  The failure to do so may result in a default being entered and the suspension of driving privileges.

For more information on marijuana laws, drug offenses, and the penalties for violating these laws in New Hampshire, including a loss of license, please contact one of the lawyers at Samdperil& Welsh, PLLC and schedule a consultation.

Effective October 1, 2017, Rockingham County will start using the new “Felonies First” rules.  Rockingham is the last of New Hampshire’s 10 counties to implement the new felony case procedures.  Felonies Frist began in January, 2016 in Cheshire and Strafford counties, and has been expanded to all New Hampshire counties over the past 22 months.

Here are 4  important things to know about how “Felonies First” will change how felony cases are handled in New Hampshire courts:

1. Under Felonies First, any person charged with a felony will be scheduled for an arraignment (i.e., an initial court appearance where a plea is entered and bail may be set or changed) in the Superior Court and the case will be prosecuted by the county attorney’s office. This is a major change from the old rules, which permitted felony cases to be filed in the local circuit court by a local police or town prosecutor.

2.  It doesn’t matter if a person is also charged with misdemeanor offenses. If a person is facing multiple charges and at least one of the charges is a felony, the entire case, including any misdemeanor charges, will be transferred to the superior court.

3.  Under the old rules, a person charged with a felony in circuit court was entitled to a probable cause hearing, which is a preliminary hearing where a prosecutor must show that there is a basis to believe that a felony was committed and that the person charged is responsible.  Under Felonies First, probable cause hearings are not automatic, and the defendant must now show that he or she meets certain statutory criteria before a judge will consider scheduling this type of hearing.

4.  In Rockingham County, any felony charge that was filed before October 1, 2017, or was filed after that date but alleges criminal conduct before October 1, will be handled under the old felony procedures. This means that an arraignment and probable cause hearing may still be held in the Circuit Court before the case is indicted and brought to Superior Court.

If you are looking for legal reprsentation or advice about a felony charge, you should speak with a lawyer immediately, and, when possible, prior to the arraignment.  We have been reprsenting people in felony cases in the New Hampshire courts for over two decades.  You can schedule a consultation at any of our office or conference locations by calling (603) 775-7570 or send an email to help@swnhlaw.com.

Effective September 16, 2017, possession of 3/4 of an ounce of marijuana or less will no longer be a crime in New Hampshire.  The new law, which decriminalizes small amounts of marijuana, merely lessens the penalties for possession – it does not make marijuana possession legal. Here are three important things to understand about this change to New Hampshire law:

1. Possession of 3/4 of an ounce of marijuana is a violation level (i.e., non-criminal) offense.  Possession of more than 3/4 of an ounce is still a crime and can be punished by larger fines and possibly jail.

2. This is a change to New Hampshire state law only.  Under federal law, marijuana possession is still a crime. This means that even a violation-level conviction for a small amount of marijuana can lead to the loss of certain scholarships, student loans, or financial aid, such as federal student aid (FAFSA).

3. This law applies only to persons who are 21 or older. A person who is under age 18 and possesses 3/4 of an ounce of marijuana or less can be subject to juvenile delinquency proceedings in family court.

For basic information on New Hampshire’s decriminalization bill, click here. If you have questions about how this law may affect you, particularly if you are a student, please give us a call. We are happy to schedule a consultation to provide information about your particular situation or to discuss legal representation.

We understand that drunk driving cases can be confusing – the field tests, the alcohol testing machines, the whole process.

One of the most important things to know is how a conviction for a DWI offense might affect you. For that reason, we have put together a reference guide that summarizes the penalties for several DWI offenses.

In 2013, new DWI sentencing laws went into effect that significantly change the treatment requirements and the length of mandatory jail sentences. Our guide has been updated to reflect these changes.

This information is designed to help you understand what the mandatory minimum sentences are, what the worst case scenario could be, and what other consequences could result from a conviction for DWI or DUI in New Hampshire.

Penalties for DWI in New Hampshire

In New Hampshire, the penalty will be greatly affected by your prior driving record and whether you have previously been charged with or convicted of a DWI.

Second and subsequent DWI convictions include a mandatory jail sentence and lengthy license suspension. Additionally, the charge of Aggravated DWI has serious consequences, including a mandatory jail sentence in all cases.

For specific information about DWI penalties, click https://swnhlaw.com/areas-practice/dwi-defense/nh-dwi-penalties.

Please note that this is background information only, and you should always consult with a lawyer to find out what penalties are applicable in your case.

Under the so-called “Felonies First” law, which became law in July of 2015, felony cases will be brought directly in the superior court, as opposed to the local circuit court where these charges were traditionally filed.

This change eliminates preliminary “probable cause” hearings as a matter of right, and instead places with a superior court judge the determination of whether such a hearing is necessary.

The Strafford and Cheshire county superior courts were the first courts to implement this significant change in court procedure. Felonies First will expand to Belknap County Superior Court in July of 2016.  The program will then rollout statewide.

Attorney Richard Samdperil, formerly a co-chair of the NH Bar Association Criminal Law Section, represented the section on an attorney working group convened by the Chief Justice of the New Hampshire Superior Court.  For the New Hampshire Bar News article, click here.