New Hampshire Aggravated Assault Laws
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In New Hampshire, a person commits the crime of aggravated assault, a felony, by causing serious injury to another, by injuring a person under the age of 13, or by injuring a public official in order to influence the official’s actions.
Assaults that merely cause injury are misdemeanors. For more information on these crimes, see New Hampshire Assault and Battery Laws. For more information on assaults committed with a weapon, see Assault With a Deadly Weapon in New Hampshire.
First Degree Assault
A person commits the crime of first degree assault by:
- purposely causing serious bodily injury to another
- purposely or knowingly causing bodily injury to a pregnant woman that results in a miscarriage or stillbirth (not an abortion), or
- knowingly or recklessly causing serious bodily injury to a child under the age of 13.
(N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 631:1.)
What Constitutes “Serious Bodily Injury” and “Bodily Injury?”
Serious bodily injury means any harm to the body that causes severe, permanent, or protracted loss of or impairment to the health or of the function of any part of the body. For example, multiple broken bones or a severe burn would probably be considered serious bodily injury.
Bodily injury is usually interpreted to mean any physical pain, physical illness or any impairment of physical condition that does not amount to the severity of serious bodily injury. Common examples of bodily injury include a sprained ankle, multiple deep bruises, or a pinched nerve.
(N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 625:11.)
What Constitutes Acting “Purposely, Knowingly, or Recklessly?”
People act purposely when they intend to cause a particular result or engage in a particular course of conduct. Intentionally kicking someone in head and causing numerous fractured bones and internal bleeding would probably be considered first degree assault.
People act knowingly when they are aware of the nature of their conduct or the surrounding circumstances. People act recklessly when they are aware of and consciously disregard the risk their conduct poses to others. Reckless behavior is always a great departure from how a reasonable, law-abiding person would behave. For example, having unprotected sex with someone, knowing that you are infected with HIV, would probably be considered reckless behavior.
(N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 626:2.)
Second Degree Assault
In New Hampshire, a person commits the crime of second degree assault by:
- knowingly or recklessly causing serious bodily injury to another
- recklessly causing bodily injury under circumstances showing an extreme indifference to the value of human life
- recklessly or negligently causing injury to a pregnant woman that results in a miscarriage or stillbirth (not an abortion)
- purposely or knowingly causing bodily injury to a child under the age of 13, or
- purposely or knowingly strangling or suffocating another.
People act negligently when they fail to be aware of the risks their conduct poses to others and where a reasonable person would have been aware of the risk. For example, falling asleep with a cigarette in your hand would probably be considered acting negligently.
Circumstances that show an extreme indifference to human life might include inflicting numerous injuries or leaving a victim in particularly vulnerable position.
Slipping a narcotic into a woman’s drink, not knowing that she was pregnant, and then causing her to miscarry might also be an example of second degree assault.
(N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 626:2, 631:2.)
Causing Injury to Public Officials
In New Hampshire, if a person causes injury to a public official in order to influence the official’s actions or in retaliation, the assault is punished severely.
Public officials include:
- members of the general court or judiciary
- executive councilors (members of the Governor's office) and marital masters (family court judges)
- past or present governors, and
- members of their immediate families.
(N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 631:4-a.)
In New Hampshire, any assault against a family or household member is domestic violence, also called domestic abuse. Family and household members include spouses, ex-spouses, people who live together or who have lived together, people who are dating or who have dated, and people related by blood or marriage (other than minor children). Crimes of domestic violence are not punished more severely in New Hampshire, but the victim may be able to obtain a restraining order against the defendant.
(N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 631:2-B, 173-B:1.)
For more information, see Domestic Violence in New Hampshire.
Hate Crimes and Protected Victims
If the assault was substantially motivated because of hostility towards the victim's religion, race, creed, sexual orientation, national origin, or sex, the offender may be sentenced to additional prison time. If the victim of the assault is a law enforcement officer, firefighter, or licensed emergency medical care provider acting in the line of duty, there may be additional prison time. An assault that takes advantage of a victim’s age or disability, occurs in a school safety zone, or an assault against a child younger than 13 is also subject to an enhanced prison sentence.
(N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 651:6, 193-D:1.)
First degree assault is a class A felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison, a fine of up to $4,000, or both. Causing injury to a public official is also a class A felony.
First and second degree assault are punishable by ten (and up to 30) years in prison if:
- the victim is a person under 13 years of age and the victim suffers serious bodily injury such as brain damage or other physical disability that is likely to be permanent
- the assault was substantially motivated because of hostility towards the victim's religion, race, creed, sexual orientation, national origin, or sex
- the victim of the assault is a law enforcement officer, firefighter, or licensed emergency medical care provider acting in the line of duty
- the offender is a law enforcement officer at the time he committed or attempted to commit the assault
- the offender used force against a person with the intention of taking advantage of the victim's age or physical disability
- the victim was under 13 years of age, or
- the assault occurred in a school safety zone.
Second degree assault is class B felony, punishable by up to seven years in prison, a fine of up to $4,000, or both.
(N.H. Rev. Stat. Ann. §§ 631:1, 631:2, 651:6, 651:2, 193-D:1.)
Getting Legal Advice and Representation
Being convicted of aggravated assault can result in imprisonment, a fine, and a criminal record. With an attorney’s help, you may be able to get the charges reduced or dismissed, or obtain a favorable verdict, sentence, or plea bargain. If you are charged with aggravated assault, you should contact a criminal defense attorney who practices in New Hampshire immediately. An experienced attorney will be able to tell you how your case is likely to fare in court based on the facts of the offense and the assigned judge and prosecutor, and help you prepare the strongest possible defense.