New Hampshire Court Records
Sealing and Expunging Criminal Records in New Hampshire
In New Hampshire, the process of expunging criminal records within the state is referred to as an “annulment.” Annulments are targeted at the rehabilitation of convicted individuals. The New Hampshire Courts use these legal processes to reduce the collateral consequences and stigma of a criminal arrest or conviction, such as difficulties in accessing education, employment, housing, civic engagements, etc. However, the New Hampshire Expungement Statutes only permit the expungement or sealing of specific violations and convictions, provided they meet the required conditions. Individuals who qualify for the process may file a written request with the court where the case was initially heard.
The Difference Between Sealing and Expunging Criminal Records
The most significant difference between expunging and sealing criminal records is that expunged records are entirely removed from state databases while sealed records are made confidential. When criminal records are annulled in New Hampshire, they are removed from public view, from the state police criminal records databases, state-run background checks, and even sealed in courts. As a result, the beneficiaries of an expungement order are treated like they were never arrested, convicted, or sentenced.
In contrast, according to Rule 50 of the State Criminal Procedure, sealing a record is merely filing it as a confidential document, thereby limiting public access to the file or specific information within the record. Hence, annulments result in complete deletion of a record, while sealing a record in New Hampshire retains the record and its references to the subject.
Nevertheless, compared to record sealing, annulments may appear to be absolute because they result in removing criminal records from public domains. However, they remain open to law enforcement and anyone who requests them under the state’s Right to Know law.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching more straightforward, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in
Third-party sites are independent of government sources and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
How to Seal a Criminal Record in New Hampshire
When a party seeks to seal a record by filing confidential information in a New Hampshire Court, it must be accompanied by a separate Motion To Seal. A confidential document can be sealed in its entirety or have portions of it redacted. To file such records, the filing party must provide the court with facts, statutes, case law, and court rules that support the motion. They must also state in clear terms the relief that is sought through the action. After filing the motion, it is served to all parties in the case to allow objections. The court proceeds to review the motion and complaints, if there are any, before granting or denying the order.
What Crimes Can Be Expunged in New Hampshire
Most criminal convictions can be expunged in New Hampshire except violent crimes, convictions for obstructing justice, and crimes with long-term imprisonment. Such crimes may include murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, specific homicide, falsifying evidence, child pornography, etc. Moreover, all criminal charges that did not result in convictions are eligible for annulment. If the charges were dismissed or the defendant was acquitted, the individual may start processing annulment 30 days after the dismissal.
According to state laws, juvenile criminal records in New Hampshire are automatically expunged when the perpetrator reaches 21. Following the order, all court, arrest, and institutional records concerning the case are sealed and placed in an inactive file. Regardless, the documents remain open to law enforcement agencies to prosecute criminal activities.
How to Expunge Criminal Records in New Hampshire
Several conditions must be fulfilled before the court considers granting an annulment order. The first requirement to be eligible for expungement is for the petitioner seeking an annulment to remain of good behavior and without conviction for a while after conviction and sentencing. This period is called the “waiting period”. In general, the waiting period for most crimes is one year, but according to state laws, they may differ depending on the severity of the crime committed.
After the waiting period has elapsed, and all other terms of the sentence are completed, the individual seeking expungement can file a Petition to Annul record in the sentencing court. In addition to the petition, the petitioner must submit documents that show that the sentencing terms were obeyed. Once the petition is filed, the court carries out its investigation by reviewing the provided documents and other aspects of the charge. This process includes forwarding the requests for annulment to the Department of Corrections to review the petitioner’s criminal history. The department then issues a written recommendation to the court regarding the request. As part of the investigation, the court may also engage the prosecutor of the crime for which annulment is sought.
Eligibility for annulments may not always mean receiving the order. Overall, granting the order for annulment is dependent on the court’s discretion. The court’s decision may be influenced by determining if the decision will aid or quicken the petitioner’s rehabilitation and be consistent with the public welfare. Court hearings are not necessary for this process because the court has the liberty to dismiss or grant a petition without a hearing. But, the court may grant an annulment hearing if the petitioner requests it.
Finally, the petitioner must provide a filing fee of $100 to cover court costs, but the fees may be waived if the charges did not result in convictions. If a petition to annul is denied, the individual must wait three years before applying again. If the order is granted, the court is required to issue the petitioner a certificate affirming that the individual’s exemplary behavior has facilitated the order for annulment. The State Police Criminal Records Unit and the arresting agency are then notified of the order, and the arrest records are cleared.
Do Sealed Records Show up In New Hampshire Background Checks?
No, sealed or annulled records do not show up in state background checks. As a general rule, an annulment removes a crime from state background checks and restricts public access to the information. Therefore, when an annulment is ordered, the recipient may lawfully state that the annulled record does not exist because when people search the New Hampshire criminal record, the charges will not be seen.
Who Can See Sealed Criminal Records in New Hampshire
Annulled records in New Hampshire will still be available to the person receiving the annulment and the law enforcement agencies. Typically, when an annulment order is given, state and federal computer databases are cleared, and court files are sealed. However, law enforcement agencies are permitted by state laws to maintain arrest and conviction records for legitimate investigative reasons. If members of the public request annulled records under the state’s right-to-know law, they might see sealed criminal records.
How to Obtain Sealed Records in New Hampshire
According to a ruling made by The New Hampshire Supreme Court, annulled records are subject to the New Hampshire Right to Know law. As a result, members of the public can request access to inspect annulled criminal records. According to that law, every citizen of the state can rightfully review all records maintained by public bodies unless prohibited by statute. Thus, inquirers may retrieve the sentencing court records according to the Right to Know advocacy group’s explicit guidelines. If the request is denied, the requester may contact the Attorney General’s Office to appeal.
For access to records filed as confidential, the inquirer must file a motion in court to unseal the record. If the court cannot find a basis for nondisclosure after reviewing the motion and possible objections, the petitioner will be granted access after ten days.