Rockingham County Attorney
State of New Hampshire

 

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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.

Common Terms

Appeal- 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.

Arraignment- 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.

Bail- 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.

Continuance- A trial or other proceeding may be postponed for many reasons (many out of the State’s control).

Defendant- The Defendant is the person who has been charged with a crime.

Felony- A serious crime punishable by incarceration of more than one year at the New Hampshire State Prison and up to a $4,000 fine.

Grand Jury- 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.

Misdemeanor- A less serious crime punishable by incarceration of no more than one year at the County House of Corrections and up to a $2,000 fine.

No Contact 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.

Plea 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.

Probable Cause- A reasonable belief that a crime has been committed or is being committed.

Prosecutor-  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.

Restitution- 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.

Subpoena- 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.

Trial- 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.

Victim- 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.

Witness- 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 matter.

 

**The criminal 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.