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What Are New Hampshire Specialty Courts?

The New Hampshire Drug and Mental Health Courts are specialty criminal courts for offenders with mental health or substance abuse challenges. The courts are available at various Superior Court and Circuit Court locations across the state. 

New Hampshire Drug Courts

Drug Courts are not found in all New Hampshire counties. In counties where they are, the Drug Court serves as an alternative to incarceration. Drug Courts are for high-risk and high-need addicts. The court’s operation requires collaboration between the judge, prosecutor, treatment provider, defense attorney, and law enforcement. To be eligible for the Drug Court scheme, the interested individual must satisfy the following conditions:

  • Be diagnosed as having a moderate or severe substance abuse disorder, as defined by DSM;
  • obtain a validated risk assessment higher than low;
  • Above the age of 17 years;
  • Reside within the Drug Court jurisdiction;
  • Being diagnosed with mental health disorder and recommended by a counselor.
  • Be a US citizen.

Another requirement for eligibility is that the individual must reside in the county where the Drug Court is located and must have committed the crime in that county.

To determine eligibility, an offender must be referred for the program and go through a screening process. A referral may be carried out by the prosecution, defense, law enforcement, court, or an interested party, including the potential participant.

After referral, a Drug Court team member would conduct a legal screening exercise to determine if the offender is legally eligible. This process will consider the existence of prior convictions or pending charges. Afterward, the clinical staff will assess whether the offender qualifies for their substance abuse, personal history, and necessary conditions to prevent reoffending. 

Some potential disqualifying factors are:

  • Offenders with serious medical conditions outside the provision of the Drug Treatment Court;
  • Offenders with mental health issues not treatable by the Drug Treatment Court;
  • Substance Abusers (Low Need);
  • Low-Risk offenders;
  • Offenders with dual diagnosis, without medical management, treatment plan, or willingness for either;
  • Drug Profiteers

If an application is successful, the offender must plead guilty to the offense they brought to court. After a guilty plea, the individual is placed on probation or parole and mandated to attend court weekly. The person will also be in treatment three hours a day for three days a week, participate in daily self-help meetings, and submit to random drug tests twice a week.

Additionally, the individual is placed under the probation department’s supervision, whose officers carry out random house visits twice a week. In the latter parts of the program, the person must find a job, get a GED, pay restitution, and graduate from the program. 

The Drug Court procedure is a multi-agency program that involves representatives from different agencies within the state. Each case consists of a team comprising the following:

  • Drug Court Judge
  • Drug Court Coordinator
  • Case Manager(s)
  • Representative(s) from the treatment agency
  • Representative(s) from state probation & parole and other community supervision officers
  • Representative(s) from the county prosecutor office
  • Representative(s) from the public defender
  • Representative(s) from law enforcement or House of Corrections

The Drug Court program lasts between 18 and 24 months. Participants in the program are expected to adhere to a set of official rules. If the rules are broken, sanctions range from increased court appearances to incarceration. 

The following counties have Drug Courts and can be contacted for inquiries:

Belknap Superior Court

64 Court Street

Laconia, NH 03246

Phone: (855)212–1234

Carroll County Courthouse

96 Water Village Road - Box 3

Ossipee, NH 03864

Phone: (855)212–1234

Cheshire Superior Court

33 Winter Street, Suite 2

Keene, NH 03431

Phone: (855)212–1234

Coos Superior Court

55 School Street, Suite 301

Lancaster, NH 03584

Phone: (855)212–1234

Grafton Superior Court

3785 Dartmouth College Highway

North Haverhill, NH 03774

Phone: (855)212–1234

Hillsborough County Superior Court North

300 Chestnut Street

Manchester, NH 03101

Phone: (855)212–1234

Hillsborough County Superior Court South

30 Spring Street

Nashua, NH 03060

Phone: (855–212–1234)

Merrimack Superior Court

163 North Main Street

PO. Box 2880

Concord, NH 03302–2880

Rockingham Superior Court

Rockingham County Courthouse

10 Route 125

Brentwood, NH

Mailing Address: PO. Box 1258, Kingston, NH 03848–1258

Phone: (855)212–1234

Strafford Superior Court

Strafford County Justice & Administration Building

259 County Farm Road

Dover, NH 03820

Phone: (855)212–1234

New Hampshire Mental Health Courts

Certain counties in New Hampshire have Mental Health Courts. These courts hold limited jurisdiction over criminal cases where the offender may have a mental illness. To be eligible for the Mental Health Court, the illness must have contributed to the offense which was committed.

New Hampshire Mental Health Courts adopt a treatment program as an alternative to the traditional criminal trial and justice system. Each county with a Mental Health Court has a handbook that outlines qualification requirements, procedures, and other related matters. Although these procedures are generally similar, minor differences exist. For example, the Lebanon Mental Health Court program may handle any criminal case. In contrast, offenders in Manchester may only apply to the Mental Health Court in non-violent criminal matters such as violations, misdemeanors, and felonies. Interested persons may check each court’s handbook for any such differences. 

To get on the program, a referral must be made by the bail commissioner, prosecutor, defense counsel, treatment provider, family members, or the court.

Offenders must be diagnosed with a mental illness or have a diagnosable mental illness that contributed to the crime committed. Applicants are assessed in relation to psychological concerns, substance abuse, education, life skills, and vocational skills. Treatment may only begin if the applicant is considered suitable by the assessor. Note that further assessments may be required if deemed appropriate or necessary. 

Offenders who choose to participate in the treatment program must sign a one-year contract of commitment to the program. Offenders who refuse to sign the contract cannot participate in the program and have to go through a normal trial. To commence treatment, a plan will be drawn up with input from the offender, the treatment team, court representative, and in some instances, the court. The court representative monitors treatment for participants. 

There must be compliance with the treatment plan for the program to be completed. Sanctions for non-compliance range from increased court reviews or community service to termination of the program. If the program is terminated, the offender is sent back to the trial court. Upon completion, the court may certify the case closed without any further prosecution. Otherwise, the court may order extended participation in the program.

Mental Health Courts are located in the following counties:

Cheshire Superior Court

33 Winter Street, Suite 2

Keene, NH 03431

Phone: (855)212–1234

Circuit Court District Division - Lebanon

38 Centerra Parkway

Lebanon, NH 03766–0247

Phone: (855)212–1234

Circuit Court District Division - Littleton

134 Main Street

Littleton, NH 03561

Phone: (855)212–1234

Circuit Court District Division - Plymouth

26 Green Street

Plymouth, NH 03264

Phone: (855)212–1234

Circuit Court District Division - Manchester

35 Amherst Street

Manchester, NH 03101

Phone: (855)212–1234

Circuit Court District Division - Nashua

30 Spring Street, Suite 101

Nashua, NH 03060

Phone: (855)212–1234

Circuit Court District Division - Concord

32 Clinton Street

PO. Box 3420

Concord, NH 03302–3420

Phone: (855)212–1234

Circuit Court District Division -Brentwood

10 Route 125

Brentwood, NH

Phone: (855)212–1234

Circuit Court District Division - Portsmouth

111 Parrott Avenue

Portsmouth, NH 03801–4490

Phone: (855)212–1234

Circuit Court District Division - Rochester

76 North Main Street 

Rochester, NH 03867–1905

Phone: (855)212–1234

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