When a person is arrested for an offense, courts need to decide what they will be charged with. When they are convicted, judges use guidelines to determine what punishment is appropriate. Guidelines for punishments are laid out based on what category the offense was under. In New Hampshire under section 625:9 of the criminal code, every offense is charged as a misdemeanor, felony or violation. Misdemeanor and felony offenses are considered crimes. Violations are not crimes and the conviction of a violation shall not lead to any criminal penalties. A person who is arrested in New Hampshire should understand what their charges mean and how serious the consequences will be if they are convicted.
New Hampshire Felony Charges
Felony crimes are the most serious offenses in New Hampshire. A felony can apply to a person or a corporation. Felony charges for people result in a minimum of one year of jail time. Felonies are separated into two groups Class A and Class B felonies.
Class B Felony: Class B felonies are the less serious type of felony offenses. This does not mean that the penalties are light. A person convicted of a Class B felony will face a incarceration of 3 and ½ years to a maximum sentence of 7 years. These charges also often result in fines of $4,000 and up to 5 years of probation. Some common class B felony criminal offenses include:
- Computer fraud
- Possession of small amounts of illegal substances
- Fourth DWI
- Theft of property over $500 but less than $1,000
Class A Felony: Class A felonies are the most serious criminal offenses. A Class A felony conviction will result in at least 7 and 1/2 years of incarceration but not more than 15 years. Like class B felonies, class A charges also often result in fines of $4,000 and up to 5 years of probation. Examples of Class A felonies include:
- Assault resulting in serious bodily injury
- Theft of property over $1,000
- Sex crimes
- Drug related crimes
In addition to the jail time, felony convictions will also result in a monetary fine to be set by the court. Perhaps the most serious punishment, however, is the stigma of a felony conviction. A person who is convicted of a felony offense will have this information added to their criminal record. Potential employers, school admissions offices and even leasing agencies check this record before making acceptance decisions. A felony conviction can make it hard to find a job, get into a good school and even get proper housing.
New Hampshire Misdemeanor Charges
Misdemeanors are criminal offenses that are not as serious as felonies. Misdemeanors are defined by the fact that the maximum penalty will not exceed one year of jail time. Still, misdemeanors can still result in serious penalties and a conviction should be avoided. Like felonies, they are divided into two classes, A and B.
Class B Misdemeanor: Class B offenses include the lightest criminal offenses. When committed by a person, a class B misdemeanor can result in a maximum fine of $1,200. No jail time is associated with this class of charge. Any crime that is designated a misdemeanor but is not given a class will be considered a Class B offense unless it involves an act of violence or threat of violence or is designed a Class A charge by state notice. Class B misdemeanor charges include:
- First time DWI
- Simple Assault
Class A Misdemeanor: Class A misdemeanor include more serious criminal offenses and can result in penalties of jail time up to one year, a fine of $2,000 and the possibility of probation. Some common Class A misdemeanors include:
- Second DWI
- Criminal Mischief
New Hampshire Violations
The least serious offenses are called violations. A violation is an offense that is not a crime. The penalties for a violation include a fine and, in some cases, license suspension but no jail time will be imposed. Also, a violation conviction is not reported on your criminal record and will have no long term effects. Examples of violations are minor traffic offenses.
New Hampshire Penalty Swapping
Under New Hampshire law, there are a few circumstances where a defendant can actually be charged with a lesser classification of the same crime. This is left to the discretion of the state and the judge, but under RSA 625:9 it is possible.
According to RSA 625:9 VI, before a suspect is arraigned (i.e. had their charges formally read to them), the state may charge any misdemeanor offense as a violation instead. In these cases, the penalties for a conviction will be that of a violation instead of a misdemeanor. Likewise, under RSA 625:9 VII a crime that is a class A misdemeanor may be charged as a class B misdemeanor as long as it did not involve violence or the threat of violence. The law states that:
The state may change an offense pursuant to this paragraph if such change is in the interest of public safety and welfare and is not inconsistent with the societal goals of deterrence and prevention of recidivism
RSA 625:9 VII states that any person who is convicted of a class A misdemeanor and is sentenced to no jail time or a suspended sentence of jail time as well as a fine that is under the maximum fine for a class B misdemeanor will have their criminal record reflect a class B misdemeanor conviction instead.
Criminal Defense Attorney in New Hampshire
If you have been arrested for, or are suspected of committing a crime in New Hampshire, call our office right away. Many people facing criminal charges are eager to know what kind of punishment they should expect. We can answer all these questions for you and explain that the best way to get the sentence you want is to avoid conviction by building a strong defense.
All criminal charges are serious and will appear on your criminal record for anyone to see. Whether you are facing class B misdemeanor charges or class A felony charges, we can help you. Attorneys Ryan Russman and Jerome Blanchard know what it takes to fight criminal charges and get you the results you want.