Like other states, New Hampshire divides crimes into misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanors are crimes punishable by up to one year in jail, whereas felony offenses carry penalties of more than a year in prison. New Hampshire law categorizes misdemeanors into two classes: class A and B misdemeanors. Read on to learn about how New Hampshire classifies, penalizes, and sentences misdemeanor offenses.
New Hampshire has two classes of misdemeanors—class A and B misdemeanors. Class A misdemeanors are the more serious of the two (they carry possible jail time). It's not always clear, though, what classification applies when simply looking at the statutes. The state takes a somewhat unique approach to classifying misdemeanors.
Some New Hampshire misdemeanors specify a classification in the law, class A or B. But many crimes are simply designated as "misdemeanors." If the law doesn't specify a classification, the misdemeanor defaults to a class B misdemeanor, unless:
If any of these situations apply, the offense is a class A misdemeanor.
It's also possible for a state prosecutor to take the reverse approach—reducing charges for a class A misdemeanor to a class B misdemeanor, but only for non-violent offenses.
These provisions mean that some crimes can be classified as both a class A and B misdemeanor. The classification that prevails generally depends on the circumstances of the crime (whether the defendant used or threatened violence) and how the state decides to treat the offense.
Below are examples of class A and B misdemeanors. Keep in mind, though, that the classification can change based on the circumstances of the offense.
A class A misdemeanor carries up to one year in jail and a $2,000 fine.
Class B misdemeanors in New Hampshire are considered crimes, but they are not punishable by incarceration. A class B misdemeanor can be punished by a maximum fine of $1,200.
Some crimes—such as simple assault, resisting arrest, prostitution, disorderly conduct, and shoplifting—can be charged as a class A or B misdemeanor.
(N.H. Rev. Stat. §§ 318-B:26, 625:9, 634:2, 644:2-b (2023).)
New Hampshire law enhances penalties for certain misdemeanor offenses, including crimes involving aggravating factors and for repeat offenses.
Several misdemeanors carry extended jail terms when they involve aggravating factors. For instance, a person convicted of a misdemeanor for criminal mischief or illegal possession of drugs while in a safe-school zone is subject to an extended term. The same applies to theft crimes that target vulnerable or elderly adults. An extended term for a misdemeanor is two to five years of imprisonment.
(N.H. Rev. Stat. § 651:6 (2023).)
Along the same lines, a person convicted of a second, third, or subsequent misdemeanor could face felony charges. For instance, a first stalking conviction is a class A misdemeanor, but subsequent stalking convictions carry class B felony penalties. The state can also file class B felony charges for a third misdemeanor theft offense, a second escape conviction, and a second criminal trespass offense involving more than $1,500 of property damage.
(N.H. Rev. Stat. §§ 633:3-a, 635:2, 637:77, 642:6 (2023).)
Judges have several options when sentencing misdemeanor crimes in New Hampshire. For a class A misdemeanor, a judge can impose one or more of the following: a jail sentence, probation, conditional or unconditional discharge, or a fine. The available penalties for class B misdemeanors include conditional or unconditional discharge, fines, or other sanctions, such as license revocation (but not incarceration or probation).
Jail time. A person will typically serve any incarceration ordered for a class A misdemeanor conviction in a county jail.
Misdemeanor probation. A judge can place a person convicted of a class A misdemeanor on probation for up to two years. Conditions of probation might include home confinement, electronic monitoring, intensive supervision, payment of restitution, or community service hours. A defendant who fails to comply with probation can face revocation and jail time. For minor violations, the judge might modify the conditions or extend the probation term past two years.
Conditional discharge. Conditional discharge is essentially unsupervised probation. Under conditional discharge, the judge may place restrictions on a person's travel, associations, and contact with a victim. Other conditions might include counseling or treatment, payment of restitution, or community service hours. Conditional discharge is limited to one year but can be extended if the defendant doesn't complete all the terms on time.
Unconditional discharge. A sentence of unconditional discharge results in a conviction but no other sanctions. It's a final judgment in the case.
(N.H. Rev. Stat. §§ 625:9, 651:2 (2023).)
If you face misdemeanor charges in New Hampshire, contact a local criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. A lawyer can help you understand the charging process and how criminal cases proceed, as well as defend your case and protect your rights.