New Hampshire takes domestic violence crimes seriously. A person who harms or threatens to harm a family member faces criminal charges, as well as risks being arrested, held in jail pretrial, and stripped of their right to have firearms.
New Hampshire law defines "domestic violence"—what acts and by whom. The crime of domestic involves harming, threatening, coercing, or committing other acts of violence against a family or household member or an intimate partner.
Family and household members include:
Intimate partners include persons who are or were involved romantically.
New Hampshire has two crimes specific to unlawful acts against family and household members and intimate partners:
While not limited to acts against family and household members or intimate partners, other common domestic violence-related crimes include:
A person suspected of committing domestic violence or a related crime faces not only criminal penalties but also mandatory arrests, bail restrictions, and firearm restrictions.
(N.H. Rev. Stat. §§ 173-B:1, 173-B:9 631:1, 631:2-b, 632-A:4 (2023).)
A person commits the crime of domestic violence by using or threatening physical force or violence against a family or household member or intimate partner to:
When acts involve threats, the prosecutor must typically prove that the victim reasonably believed the defendant could carry out their threats.
A conviction for domestic violence carries class A misdemeanor penalties of up to year in jail. However, if the person used or threatened to use a deadly weapon, the punishment increases to a class B felony. A class B felony is punishable by up to seven years in prison.
(N.H. Rev. Stat. § 631:2-b, 651:2 (2023).)
Victims of domestic violence or abuse can ask the court to issue a protective order that directs the defendant:
A knowing violation of the protective order is a class A misdemeanor. A defendant who's convicted of violating a protective order will also face enhanced penalties for any subsequent acts of abuse. Enhanced penalties bump up the offense classification by one level. So, if the defendant is later charged with a class A misdemeanor assault, the charge increases to a class B felony.
(N.H. Rev. Stat. §§ 173-B:1, 173-B:5, 173-B:9 (2023).)
Domestic violence or abuse can take many forms from physical assault to sexual assault, stalking, harassment, and harming a pet to control the victim. Depending on the circumstances of the crime, a prosecutor may choose to seek charges for any of these offenses in addition to or in lieu of domestic violence charges. For instance, if a victim suffers "serious bodily injuries" from an assault, the prosecutor could file first-degree assault charges, which carry class A felony penalties, rather than the class A misdemeanor penalties that apply to the crime of domestic violence resulting in "bodily injuries."
New Hampshire law imposes additional restrictions and penalties on those suspected or convicted of committing domestic violence.
Police can make warrantless arrests of a person suspected of committing domestic violence within the past 12 hours, including acts of assault, criminal trespass, stalking, or other crimes against a family or household member or intimate partner. In cases involving a violation of a protective order, police must arrest the defendant and hold the defendant in jail pending a hearing before a judge.
Police must also provide assistance to the victim to prevent further abuse. An officer must inform the victim of their rights and can assist in transporting a victim and any children to a safe place, arranging medical treatment, or confiscating any firearms in the defendant's control.
In cases of domestic violence, a judge can hold a defendant without bail if their release may endanger the victim or others. The law states that a judge may release the defendant only if convinced release won't place others in harm. Typically, the judge will release the defendant on restrictive conditions, such as prohibiting contact with the victim and restricting possession of firearms.
When police arrest someone suspected of violating a protective order, they must seize any firearms or ammunition that the suspect may have used or threatened to use. Police hold the firearms until a judge decides what to do with them. Confiscating firearms is also an option when police suspect domestic violence.
Upon a conviction, federal law prohibits firearm possession by persons convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes. Both New Hampshire and federal law prohibit the possession of firearms for convicted felons. This prohibition also applies while a protective order is in effect.
(N.H. Rev. Stat. §§ 159:3, 173-B:10, 594:10, 597:2 (2023); 18 U.S.C. § 922 (2023).)
If you are facing charges of domestic violence or were served with a domestic abuse protective order, talk with a local criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. A lawyer can help you navigate the legal system, understand the ramifications of violating a protective order, and protect your rights.