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Felonies, Misdemeanors, and Violations in New Hampshire

In New Hampshire, crimes are classified into felonies, misdemeanors, and violations under the state criminal justice system. Felonies and misdemeanors are criminal offenses, with felonies being the most serious crimes. The New Hampshire penal code RSA 625:9 lays out guidelines for the classification of offenses and the applicable penalties. The state's criminal courts in New Hampshire preside over criminal cases, and individuals from the public who are interested can request and acquire records of New Hampshire criminal court proceedings from the relevant court.

What is a felony in New Hampshire? 

Felonies are criminal offenses for which the penalty includes imprisonment for more than one year. They are considered the most serious offenses, and they include offenses designated as violent crimes, crimes against the person, crimes against the family, and others designated by state statutes. Other than murder, felonies are classified into Class A and Class B in New Hampshire.

  • Class A Felony: offenses in this class are considered the most serious offenses, with corresponding severe punishments. Class A felonies are punishable by prison terms of no less than seven years and no more than 15 years in state prison. They are also punishable by fines of up to $4000, or both imprisonment and fines. Female genital mutilation is a Class A felony in New Hampshire (RSA 632-A:10-d).
  • Class B felony: these offenses are punishable by prison terms of no less than one year but no more than seven years in state prison. They are also punishable by fines of up to $4000 or both imprisonment and fines. In New Hampshire, bigamy is a Class B felony (RSA 639:1). 
  • Murder: in New Hampshire, murder is a felony. It is punishable by imprisonment for life. Depending on the circumstances, there may be no possibility of parole. For example, capital murder and first-degree murder are punishable by imprisonment for life without the possibility of parole (RSA 630:1, 630:1-a). Second-degree murder is punishable by imprisonment for life, and manslaughter is punishable by a prison term of no more than 30 years (RSA 630:1-b, 630:2). If the death of a person results from a driving accident, the convicted driver may lose their license or driving privileges indefinitely (RSA 630:3). 

What are some examples of felonies in New Hampshire?

The following are examples of felonies in New Hampshire:

  •  Bribery
  • Issuing a bad check of more than $1500
  • Identity fraud
  • First-degree assault
  • Bodily injury to government officials
  • Kidnapping
  • Human trafficking
  • Forgery of checks or other government instruments
  • Trading or manufacturing cloned wireless phones
  • Using a scanning device to defraud
  • Buying or owning a firearm as a convicted felon
  • Interference with inspection
  • Tampering with public water systems
  • Criminal restraint
  • Interference with custody
  • Incest
  • Organized retail crime

Can I get a Felony Removed from a Court Record in New Hampshire? 

Persons who have been convicted of felony crimes may file a petition to have the records annulled (RSA 651:5). Annulled records are sealed and removed from a person’s criminal history. Subjects of such records may fully rejoin society and be treated as if the offense never happened. In New Hampshire, sealed records are available to law enforcement agencies and the public under the state’s right to know legislation. Petitions for annulment may be granted with or without a hearing, except the petitioner requests one. The requirements for annulment in New Hampshire are as follows:

  • For cases disposed of on or before January 1, 2019, arrest and court records are eligible to be annulled if:
    • The defendant was found not guilty
    • The case was dismissed or the defendant was not prosecuted
    • The case was vacated by the court
  • For cases disposed on or after January 1, 2019, arrest and court records are eligible to be annulled if:
    • The defendant was found not guilty 
    • 30 days have passed since the finding or dismissal
    • The case was dismissed or the defendant was not prosecuted
    • The conviction was vacated

Persons convicted of crimes are eligible to file an annulment motion if they have completed all the terms of their sentence and have since been convicted of no additional crimes. This does not include minor traffic violations. The required wait period for felonies are:

  • Class A felony, sexual assault, and felony sexual offenses, 10 years
  • Class B felony except for sexual assault, five years

However, records of violent crimes such as murder, kidnapping, incest, or first-degree assault cannot be annulled. Records of crimes of obstruction of justice, such as falsifying evidence or tampering with witnesses, can also not be annulled. If a person is convicted of more than one crime, annulment petitions will not be granted them. (RSA 651:5). If the petition for annulment is denied, the petitioner must wait three years before filing another motion. 

Is expungement the same as sealing court records in New Hampshire?

When a record of conviction, arrest, or sentencing is annulled in New Hampshire, it is sealed. If a person’s record has been annulled, they will be treated as though they never committed the crime. However, if the person is convicted of another crime, the prior conviction may count towards habitual offender status. 

If an annulment is granted, the court will issue a certificate to that effect and notify all the concerned government agencies of the order. The records are then sealed, only available to the subject of the record, their attorney, and the court. The records will also be available to law enforcement agencies for law enforcement purposes. 

How Long Does a Felony Stay on Your Record in New Hampshire?

Records of felony crimes will stay on criminal history records indefinitely, except they are annulled, sealed by court order, or otherwise vacated by state statutes. In addition to prison terms and fines, felony convictions result in other consequences. For example, convicted felons may not buy, own, or carry arms. They may not vote, serve on the jury, or run for public office. Persons with felony convictions may also not be eligible for college admissions or to practice certain professions that require licensing. Low-cost housing, federal loans, and grants are also not accessible to persons convicted of felony crimes. Annulment offers convicted persons an opportunity to rejoin society with their rights restored. 

What is a Misdemeanor in New Hampshire?

Misdemeanors are criminal offenses in New Hampshire. They are considered less serious crimes than felonies, but more serious than violations. Misdemeanors are punishable by imprisonment of no more than one year in county jail and fines of up to $2000. The two classes of misdemeanors in New Hampshire are:

  • Class A misdemeanor:  these are offenses punishable by no more than one year in county jail and fines of up to $2000. False academic documentation is a Class A misdemeanor in New Hampshire (RSA 638:15-a
  • Class B misdemeanor: these are offenses so designated by statute. They are punishable by fines of up to $1200. Class B misdemeanors are not punishable by imprisonment or probation. However, they may be sentenced to conditional or unconditional discharge, or monitoring by the Department of Corrections (RSA 651:2, III). Dealing in counterfeit goods is a Class B misdemeanor (RSA 638:6-b).

Offenses designated as misdemeanors without specification of the class are considered Class B misdemeanors. This does not apply if the act involves an act of violence or the misdemeanor charge is filed directly in superior court (RSA 625:9)

What are some examples of Misdemeanors in New Hampshire?

Some examples of misdemeanors in New Hampshire are:
Class A Misdemeanor: 

  • Criminal mischief
  • Domestic violence
  • Stalking
  • Possession of a dangerous weapon while committing a violent crime
  • Possession of a small amount of an illegal substance

Class B Misdemeanor: 

  • Tampering with public or private records
  • Deceptive business practices
  • Student hazing
  • Riot
  • Misapplication of property
  • Obstructing government administration
  • Resisting arrest
  • Aiding criminal activity
  • Compounding
  • Fraudulent execution of documents
  • Unlawful simulation of the legal process
  • Use of a cloned wireless telephone
  • Sale of pistol or revolver to  minors
  • Reckless conduct
  • Willful concealment
  • Covering a fire hydrant

Can I Get a Misdemeanor Removed from a Record in New Hampshire?

Some misdemeanor records can be removed in New Hampshire. Persons convicted of misdemeanors may apply to have the records annulled (RSA 651:5). When a record is annulled, it is sealed and removed from a person’s criminal history. Annulled records are only accessible to the subjects of the record, their attorney, and the court. Law enforcement agencies may also access the records for law enforcement purposes only. 

Persons eligible to file a motion for annulment include:

  • Persons who were arrested but not charged
  • Persons whose cases were dismissed or who were found not guilty
  • Persons whose convictions were vacated by the court
  • Persons who have completed all the terms of their sentence
  • Persons who have been convicted of no other crimes since the completion of their sentence

The required wait period for misdemeanors is:

  • Two years for Class B misdemeanors, if the misdemeanor was not the highest offense of conviction
  • Three years for Class A misdemeanors except for drug offenses and sexual offenses. 
  • 30 days after a case is dismissed or the defendant is found not guilty

Can a DWI Be Expunged in New Hampshire?

DWIs can be annulled in New Hampshire after a waiting period of 10 years. Annulment seals records of the conviction and makes them inaccessible to the public. First-offense DWIs are considered misdemeanors (RSA 265-A:18) and are punishable by:

  • Fines of no less than $500
  • Referral to an impaired driver care management program at their own expense
  • Revocation of driver’s license and/or driving privileges for 9 months or up to two years

The court may reduce some parts of the sentence and require the installation of a grid interlock device. First-offense DWIs are Class B misdemeanors. However, if the defendant files a motion, the conviction can be reduced to a violation one year after the date of conviction. In deciding whether to reduce the conviction to a violation, the court will consider the defendant’s subsequent driving records, the recommendation of the impaired driver care management program, and the hardship the sentence or conviction may have caused them.

Second and third-offense DWIs within 10 years are considered Class A misdemeanors, while fourth and subsequent offenses are felony crimes.

Aggravated DWIs are considered Class A misdemeanors and are punishable by:

  • Fines of no less than $750
  • No less than 17 consecutive days in county jail
  • Full disorder evaluation by an IDCMP
  • Installation of an interlock device
  • Suspension of driver’s license or driving privileges for no less than 18 months

If the DWI causes a collision or serious bodily injury, it will be considered a Class B felony (RSA 265-A:3) and it is punishable by:

  • Fines of no less than $1000
  • No less than 35 consecutive days in county jail, out of which 21 may be suspended
  • Full substance evaluation by an IDCMP
  • Suspension of driver’s license or driving privileges for 18 months to two years
  • Installation of an interlock device

These penalties may be in addition to designated penalties for Class B felony offenses.

What constitutes a Violation in New Hampshire? 

In New Hampshire, violations are not considered criminal offenses. They are acts forbidden by law punishable by fines or forfeitures, but not imprisonment. Conviction of a violation cannot result in any legal disadvantage or disability that would otherwise result from a criminal conviction. This means that for example, persons convicted of violations cannot lose their civil rights (RSA 625:9). Violations are less serious offenses than misdemeanors. They include offenses such as violations of traffic statutes or municipal laws. Except where otherwise provided by statutes, fines for violations may not exceed $1000 (RSA 651:2, IVa).  

What are some examples of Violations in New Hampshire?

Some examples of infractions in New Hampshire are:

  • Use and possession of slugs
  • Pointing laser devices at occupied vehicles
  • Selling electronic defense weapons to persons under 18
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Failing to comply with traffic officers
  • Public urination
  • Violation of fishing statutes
  • Obstructing water
  • Snow obstruction
  • Unauthorized posting or advertising
  • Leaving trigs
  • Toll evasion
  • Placing lights on a highway
  • Camping on public property
  • Minor traffic violations such as
    • Violating the speed limits
    • Driving without a seatbelt
    • Inattentive driving
    • Inappropriate parking

Can Violations be Expunged from a New Hampshire Criminal Court Record?

Violations are not considered criminal offenses in New Hampshire. However, records of violations may be annulled (RSA 651:5, III). Petitioners must have completed all the terms of their sentence or conviction. They may file a petition for annulment one year after all the terms of their sentence or conviction are completed.

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