One common term that is used when discussing criminal sentencing in New Hampshire is suspended sentence. A suspended sentence occurs when a person is convicted of a crime and sentenced to a period of jail time or a fine. The judge may decide to ‘suspend' part or all of the sentence either during sentencing or after a petition has been filed. RSA 651:20 states:
The sentence to imprisonment of any person may be suspended by the sentencing court at the time of imposition of the sentence or at any time thereafter in response to a petition to suspend sentence which is timely brought in accordance with the limitations.
Suspension can be either conditional or unconditional. Unconditional suspension means that the terms of the sentence such as the jail time and fines do not have to be fulfilled but the defendant is still convicted of the crime. This can be beneficial because the defendant's criminal record will reflect a conviction but they will not be subject to penalties sentenced to them.
A conditional suspension is similar to probation and will allow the defendant to avoid fulfilling their sentencing requirements if they abide by certain terms given by the judge. Often, this means refraining from any if your criminal activity for a full year. If the year passes and the defendant has remained out of trouble, they will not have to complete their sentence. If they are, however, charged with violating the terms of their suspension, they may be forced to serve their entire remaining sentence.
How Often Are Sentences Suspended in New Hampshire?
Suspended sentencing is actually quite common. For example, the local news outlet, The Sentinel Source, reports some recent criminal convictions in New Hampshire that occurred in February 2014. Many of them include suspended sentences:
A 33-year-old Westmoreland man was convicted of reckless conduct with a deadly weapon in Cheshire County Superior Court. He was sentenced to one year in jail, all suspended.
David Buckley, a 53-year-old man, was sentenced to 1 to 2 years in State prison after pleading guilty to 2 counts of violating a protective order. His entire sentence was suspended.
Keith Ridge, a 39-year-old man, was sentenced to 1 year of jail time, 1 year of probation, and a fine of $350 after he pleaded guilty to selling cocaine and heroin. His jail sentence and fine were both suspended.
NH DWI Suspended Sentencing
In New Hampshire, the penalties for DWI include jail time for many offenses. Under RSA 265-A:18, offenses such as aggravated DWI or repeat DWI include provisions for jail time and how much of the sentence can be suspended. For example, a person who is convicted of DWI with one prior conviction within the past 2 years will be subject to “a mandatory sentence of not less than 60 consecutive days in the county correctional facility, of which 30 days shall be suspended” under RSA 265-A:18III (a)(3). This means that any person convicted of a second DWI with in a two year period in New Hampshire will have to serve 30 days in jail and can have the other 30 suspended. For more information about suspended sentencing, see the New Hampshire Court website or contact a DWI attorney.