Most of my criminal clients are not “bad boys” (or girls) but rather regular, honest and hard-working people who have, for different reasons, made bad choices and mistakes. Whether the bad choice was to drink and drive after an office Christmas Party, to strike their spouse in anger, to shoplift, or to “borrow” money from the boss, the majority of those clients have never experienced the terror and apprehension of being caught up in our criminal justice system. From flashing lights on the highway or outside the door, to a ride in handcuffs, fingerprinting and possible questioning, the average person is simply overwhelmed and completely unprepared to deal with the resources of the City, State and even Federal Government and Police Forces. Given that your freedom and life at are at stake, you need an aggressive, knowledgeable and competent criminal defense lawyer at your side throughout the entire process.
Of all the areas of my general legal practice, I personally enjoy criminal defense work the most.
Although never a “theater person” in high school or college, I have found that I truly love the theater that is jury trial work. Do not believe what you see on television, it takes hours and hours of preparation and years of experience to be able to effectively handle the pressures and demands of an active criminal trial practice.
Our goal in every criminal matter which we undertake is to win an acquittal for our clients. However, I often tell my clients that wish I might, I cannot change the facts and circumstances which they brought through the door when they first meet with me. After a careful review of the available evidence, and the potential consequences for our clients, if a conviction seems inevitable, we strive to obtain alternate sentences, which can include alcohol and drug counseling, intensive supervised probation, suspended jail sentences, or otherwise minimizing the consequences of the poor choices made by people in often difficult situations.
Categories of Criminal Offenses in NH
The first level of offense, and the most minor, are categorized as violations. They carry only the potential of a monetary fine (usually not to exceed $500.00) and no possibility whatsoever of jail time. Common violations include things like speeding tickets, littering, other violations of the motor vehicle code, and other comparatively “low level” offenses.
The next categories of offenses are known as misdemeanors, also known as “minor” crimes. These offenses carry the stigma of a criminal conviction on one’s permanent adult record, which can effect things like employment, college admission, military service, and other occupations which require trust and/or insurance bonding or handling of public funds. In an increasingly competitive employment market, an incorrectly handled criminal charge can be the difference between getting hired or passed over
Misdemeanors themselves are divided into two levels, being Class A and Class B Misdemeanors. Class B misdemeanors carry only the prospect of a monetary fine, not to exceed $1,200.00 plus 24% penalty assessment attendant with all criminal and traffic fines imposed in the State of New Hampshire.
Class A misdemeanors have the potential for up to one year incarceration in the County House of Corrections, along with a fine not to exceed $2,000.00 plus applicable penalty assessment.
Common misdemeanors include offenses such as Simple Assault, Domestic Assault, Criminal Threatening, Criminal Mischief (a/k/a vandalism), Criminal Trespass, Shoplifting, Theft offenses where value of property taken is less than $500.00, Possession of Marijuana, among others.
Pursuant to statute, in the discretion of the charging authority (usually the police or their prosecutors) a non-violent misdemeanor offense can be charged as a Class B misdemeanor. Driving While Intoxicated First Offense is now by statute a Class B Misdemeanor offense.
This discretion was afforded to law enforcement officers by the legislature, ostensibly to save the state money by thereby avoiding the need for court appointed counsel for indigent defendants (which right only is triggered when a defendant is potentially subjected to any term of incarceration.). Of course any person accused of any offense, however minor remains free to hire a lawyer to represent them and assist in navigating through the maze of our criminal justice system.
The most serious level of offenses are known as felonies, and they too are classified in the two groups, being Class B and the more severe Class A.
By definition, a Class B felony carries with it a potential jail sentence in the New Hampshire State Prison of between 3 ½ and 7 years incarceration, along with a $4,000.00 fine plus penalty assessment. The more serious Class A felony carries with it the potential for a sentence ranging from 7 ½ years to 15 years in the New Hampshire State Prison, along with the $4,000.00 potential fine plus penalty assessment.
Commonly known felonies include things such as Burglary, Robbery, Rape, a host of theft offenses, Child Pornography, violent assaults, drug trafficking, among others.
Many Class B felonies are what is known as lesser included offenses of the more severe Class A felony. A lesser included offense is one which must be committed in its entirety during the commission of the greater offense. For example, Robbery is a theft (defined as exercising unauthorized control over the property of another, through the use of force) such as a purse snatching. It is generally charged as a Class B felony, unless a deadly weapon is used in the commission of the crime, which then makes it a Class A felony.