Criminal defendants are processed in NH in a very specific way; the procedure entails a series of steps during which the offender is taken into custody, put through trial and eventually sentenced, if the verdict does not come out in his favor. Here is a succinct look at how these various sub processes are handled.
How are arrests made?
Arrest is a word used to signify restrictions imposed on the freedom of movement of an individual. Police make arrests when somebody is guilty of a legal transgressions; the offense in question can be something heinous like homicide or a matter that is decidedly trivial like the non payment of traffic fines. To detain a person, the police need to be acting under an arrest warrant from NH.
However, in case of felonious offenses just possessing evidence that shows probable cause would be enough to take an individual into custody. When arrest warrants are needed, these are sought from the District Courts. To apprehend an accused, police officers are allowed to give chase within the state and outside. When working with outstanding warrants from NH, they can barge into any property to arrest the offender.
What can one expect after being taken into custody?
The defendant has the right to seeking bail after being arrested. In fact, the police are legally bound to produce the arrestee in front of the court within 48 hours of being detained. At the pretrial stages which are held in the district courts, the judge advises the accused of his rights, explains the charges, asks the defendant to enter his plea, considers the bail petition and may provide state funded legal representation, if the defendant cannot afford legal help.
What is a grand jury indictment and plea bargaining?
These are terms that one frequently encounters when discussing criminal processing. Grand jury indictment is a process that only applies to felonies. It is a court session that can be held before or after arrest. If the accused has been take into custody, pending the grand jury indictment, he may be released on bail.
On the other hand, if the accused has not been apprehended, the judge will wait for the indictment to be returned; this means that the jury did find reasonable cause to assume the culpability of the accused. Only the prosecution is present during the indictment hearing. Once the jurors give their assent, the judge issues an active warrant in the name of the defendant following which he is taken into custody.
A plea bargain comes into the picture after the charges have been levied against the accused and he has entered a plea of not guilty. This is a quick way for the prosecution to get through criminal cases, since it does not involve a trial. A plea arrangement is a negotiation of sorts. Through this process, the prosecution tries to get the defendant to plead guilty and directly go for sentencing in return for lower charges. It is up to the defense to accept the deal or not. Typically, if the defense has a strong case and the prosecution is talking about a prison term, the arrangement will be declined.
What happens at the trial?
In the District Court, all cases are bench trials while in the Superior Court, a 12 member jury panel hears all the arguments and gives a unanimous verdict. Both sides are allowed to present evidence and witness testimony based on which the jurors or the judge makes the decision. In misdemeanor cases, the sentencing is done immediately after the verdict while the judge will wait for the presentence report before deciding on the prison term in case of felonies.