The legal process
is unfamiliar to many people. If, for some reason, you
or a family member are involved in a court case, there are
some terms you will want to know.
The Defendant who is found guilty at a trial in the District
Court is entitled to appeal the conviction to the Superior
Court. The Defendant
who is found guilty at a trial in the
Superior Court is entitled to appeal the conviction to the
New Hampshire Supreme Court.
This is the Defendant’s first court appearance. At
arraignment, the Court advises the Defendant what charges
are filed against them, a plea of not guilty will be
entered, an attorney will be appointed if Defendant cannot
afford one, and bail may be addressed. Often times the
defendant will waive this hearing.
A form of security, usually money, set by the Superior Court
to ensure the Defendant’s appearance at court hearings and
to ensure that the Defendant remains of good behavior while
awaiting trial. A Defendant may be released on Personal
Recognizance. Personal Recognizance bail permits a
Defendant to be released on non-monetary conditions,
generally involving only the Defendant’s promise to appear
but usually involving special conditions, which may include
no contact with victims or witnesses in the case.
A trial or other proceeding may be postponed for many
reasons (many out of the State’s control).
The Defendant is the person who has been charged with a
A serious crime punishable by incarceration of more than one
year at the New Hampshire State Prison and up to a $4,000
The Grand Jury is a panel of between 12 and 23 persons who
will determine whether there is enough evidence to “indict”
(formally charge) the Defendant. This proceeding is
confidential. Victims do not attend this session.
A less serious crime punishable by incarceration of no more
than one year at the County House of Corrections and up to a
Order- An order issued by the Court to the
Defendant, usually as a condition of bail, to have no
contact with the alleged victim/s or potential witnesses of
the crime committed.
Negotiation- By policy, a plea offer is made in
every case. Many cases are settled without a trial by an
agreement between the State and the Defendant, which results
in the Defendant entering a plea of guilty and giving up the
right to appeal the case. Negotiated sentences must be
approved by the Court. The State ultimately makes the
decision whether to enter into a plea negotiation. Victims
should be advised before plea offers are made and their
input is considered.
Cause- A reasonable belief that a crime has been
committed or is being committed.
The prosecutor is the lawyer/attorney that represents the
State of New Hampshire in the charge against the Defendant.
The prosecutor does not represent a victim or a witness in a
case. The prosecutor attends court and proceeds on matters
of the law.
Value paid to the victim by the Defendant when ordered by
the Court for any loss, damage or injury suffered by the
victim as a result of the crime.
A subpoena is issued under the authority of the court to
compel the appearance of a victim or witness at a judicial
proceeding. The disobedience of which may be punishable as
a contempt of court.
All evidence, information and witness testimony is presented
during the trial. A jury determines the verdict after a
trial. If the verdict is not guilty, the Defendant has been
acquitted and will be released. If the verdict is guilty,
the Defendant will be sentenced by the judge, most likely at
a later date.
The victim of a crime is usually the lead witness at a court
trial. The victim is not the person pressing the charges.
The State has brought the charges and the victim is a
witness for the State.
A witness is anybody who is called to testify in court.
“Witness” does not usually mean “eye witness”, as many
crimes do not have eyewitnesses. People are called to
testify because they have information about a particular
justice system often involves delays and postponements. As
a result, the resolution of a case can be quite lengthy.
The process will require your patience and determination.