New Hampshire Felony Crimes by Class and Sentences

The basics of New Hampshire felony classes, penalties, and sentencing options.

By , Attorney · New Mexico School of Law
Updated by Rebecca Pirius, Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated September 28, 2023

In New Hampshire, felonies are serious crimes punishable by more than one year in prison. The laws on felony sentencing carry harsh consequences in New Hampshire. A convicted defendant can face a minimum term, an extended maximum term, and a disciplinary period if sentenced to prison.

Felony Sentencing in New Hampshire

New Hampshire statutes provide a maximum prison sentence and optional fine for each class of felony or felony offense. 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 extend the length of the maximum sentence.

When a judge sentences someone to prison in New Hampshire, the sentence must include a minimum and a maximum term. The law specifies the bounds of the maximum sentence or extended maximum. It also provides that the minimum can't exceed half of the maximum. If the maximum sentence is 20 years, for instance, the judge could impose a sentence of say 3 to 5 years, 5 to 10 years, 7 to 15 years, or 10 to 20 years.

Typically, the judge has leeway in deciding both the minimum and maximum sentence. However, for certain crimes, New Hampshire law designates a minimum sentence that the court must impose.

How New Hampshire Classifies and Penalizes Felonies

Felonies in New Hampshire generally fall into one of three categories—class A felonies, class B felonies, and "special" felonies. Class A and B felonies carry standard maximum sentences, while special felonies carry sentences that are individual to the crime. Below are examples of crimes and their maximum penalties for the various felony categories.

Class A Felonies in N.H.

A conviction for a class A felony carries up to 15 years of prison time, plus a fine of $4,000. Examples of class A felonies include kidnapping, first-degree assault, theft of a firearm, sex trafficking, robbery, burglary, and repeat drug offenses. (Repeat drug offenses generally carry higher fine amounts than the standard $4,000. The drug statute permits fines up to $250,000 or $500,000 in some cases.)

Class B Felonies in N.H.

A person convicted of a class B felony in New Hampshire faces up to seven years of prison time and a $4,000 fine. Examples of class B felonies include aggravated DWI, rioting involving harm to person or property, revenge porn, domestic violence crimes involving a deadly weapon, and repeat stalking.

Special Felonies in N.H.

The maximum penalties for special felonies are specified by offense. Examples of "special felonies" include murder, manslaughter, aggravated felony sexual assault, and controlled substance offenses.

Murder. First- and second-degree murder both carry life sentences. A person convicted of first-degree murder is not eligible for parole.

Manslaughter. Manslaughter carries a sentence of up to 30 years in prison.

Aggravated felonious sexual assault. For a first conviction of aggravated felonious sexual assault, a person faces up to 20 years in prison. The law doubles the maximum for a second conviction, and a life sentence without parole applies to third and subsequent convictions. (These sex offenses may also result in lifetime supervision following prison.)

Drug crimes. Felony drug crimes are unique in that some carry class A or B felony penalties, while others have special felony penalties. The penalty depends on the type and amount of drug involved, as well as the defendant's criminal history and other circumstances of the offense. Special felony penalties for drug offenses generally carry maximum sentences ranging anywhere from 3 to 30 years in prison and fines of up to $500,000. Kingpins, though, can face life sentences with a 25-year minimum.

(N.H. Rev. Stat. §§ 318-B:26, 630:1-a, 630:1-b, 632A:10-a, 651:2 (2023).)

Extended Maximum Terms and Mandatory Minimums in New Hampshire

Some felony offenses or offenders will face longer sentences than those described above. These longer sentences may involve mandatory minimums or extended maximum sentence terms.

Mandatory Minimum Sentences for N.H. Felonies

For most felonies, the judge will decide what minimum term to impose. However, some New Hampshire felonies carry mandatory minimums that take away a judge's discretion in the matter.

For instance, a judge must impose a minimum sentence of at least three years for a repeat conviction of felonious use of a firearm. A 10-year mandatory minimum applies to offenders who violate New Hampshire's armed career criminal act. Sex trafficking of a minor carries a mandatory minimum 7-year sentence. And certain felonies subject to extended terms also carry lengthy mandatory minimums (of 10 to 35 years), such as negligent homicide, aggravated DWI, aggravated felonious sexual assault, and child murder.

Extended Maximum Terms for N.H. Felonies

New Hampshire law allows judges to impose sentences beyond the maximums described above if:

  • certain aggravating factors are proven to a jury
  • a defendant has prior convictions, or
  • the felony involved a firearm.

Extended terms for felonies increase maximum sentences to 20, 30, or 40 years. In some cases, a life sentence applies.

Examples of circumstances that permit an extended term include when a defendant:

  • has two or more prior felony convictions
  • committed a felony hate crime
  • committed a felony deadly weapon offense with a firearm, or
  • targeted a vulnerable victim or protected class of victims (such a first responder or elderly adult).

Close to two dozen aggravating factors can result in an extended term. The length of the extended term depends on the type of offense.

(N.H. Rev. Stat. §§ 159:3-a, 633:7, 651:2, 651:6 (2023).)

Sentencing Alternatives to Prison in New Hampshire

Except when a mandatory minimum sentence applies, a judge in a felony case may sentence the defendant to probation or conditional discharge in lieu of prison time. Because probation and conditional discharge allow a defendant an opportunity to serve their sentence in the community, the judge must decide how dangerous the defendant is and whether community supervision is appropriate in a particular case.

Felony Probation in N.H.

Felony probation can last up to five years. While on probation, a defendant must abide by conditions of probation to avoid revocation of their suspended sentence and going to prison.

Conditions of probation generally require a defendant to remain law abiding, avoid certain people, and report to a probation officer. Other conditions might include home confinement, substance abuse assessments and treatment, counseling, intensive supervision, short-term confinement, restitution payments, or community service hours.

Short of revoking probation, a violation can result in an extended probation term, additional conditions, or short jail stints.

Conditional Discharge in N.H.

Conditional discharge is similar to probation but is done without probation supervision. Conditions might include restrictions on travel, counseling requirements, restitution payments, and community service hours. Felony conditional discharge can last up to three years. However, the judge can tack on two more years if the defendant still has restitution or community service obligations.

Talk to a Lawyer

If you face felony charges in New Hampshire, talk to a criminal defense attorney. A lawyer can help you understand the criminal justice system, what's at stake with the charges you face, and how a conviction can impact your future.

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