In New Hampshire, felonies are serious crimes that are punishable by more than one year in prison. New Hampshire law categorizes felonies into two classes: Class A felonies and Class B felonies. Class A felonies are more serious crimes than B felonies.
For information about misdemeanors, see New Hampshire Misdemeanor Crimes by Class and Sentences.
The New Hampshire statutes provide a maximum prison sentence and optional fine for each class of felony. A defendant can be sentenced to a prison term between one year and that maximum. In some circumstances, such as when the defendant has previous convictions for a similar crime, the court can add additional prison time, above the maximum sentence. New Hampshire law also designates a minimum sentence for some felonies which the court must impose without discretion.
A Class A felony is punishable by a maximum range of 7½ to 15 years in prison and a fine up to $4,000. Certain A felonies, such as murder and a second or subsequent conviction for aggravated felonious sexual assault, are punishable by the death penalty or up to life in prison without parole.
For a Class B felony, the court can impose a maximum range of 3½ to seven years in prison and a fine of up $2,000.
Under New Hampshire law, the judge in a felony case has discretion to sentence the defendant to prison time, probation, or a conditional or unconditional discharge. Unless the crime carries a mandatory minimum, such as one, five, or ten years in prison, the judge can sentence the defendant to probation rather than prison, even in a felony case.
Whether the judge allows a defendant in a felony case to serve part or all of his sentence on probation, and the length of any prison sentence, usually depends on factors such as the defendant's criminal record, the extent of injury or damage caused, the impact of the crime on the victim or the community, and the extent to which the defendant has addressed life circumstances, such as drug addiction or gang involvement, which may have contributed to the criminal behavior.
New Hampshire law requires that a criminal prosecution begin within a certain amount of time after a crime is committed or believed to have been committed. The criminal statute of limitations limits the length of time the state can wait before filing charges against a person. The length of time varies for different crimes and some crimes, such as murder, have no time limit. For more information on the criminal statute of limitations, see Criminal Statute of Limitations in New Hampshire.
A felony conviction becomes part of your permanent criminal record. If you are convicted later of another felony, the court can consider your prior conviction and impose a harsher sentence in the new case. Being a convicted felon can hurt you when you are looking for a job and applying to rent a house or apartment. Convicted felons lose the right to vote, to carry firearms, and to obtain certain professional licenses.
An experienced attorney can determine whether you have any grounds for dismissal of the charges against you, explore plea options, or represent you at trial. Only someone familiar with the local criminal court system and cases like yours will know how good your chances are for a favorable outcome in court or at the negotiating table. A knowledgeable attorney will take all of this into consideration, assist you in making decisions about your case, and protect your rights.