"Felonies First" Comes to Rockingham County

October 8, 2017

Effective October 1, 2017, Rockingham County will start using the new "Felonies First" rules.  Rockingham is the last of New Hampshire's 10 counties to implement the new felony case procedures.  Felonies Frist began in January, 2016 in Cheshire and Strafford counties, and has been expanded to all New Hampshire counties over the past 22 months. 

Here are 4  important things to know about how "Felonies First" will change how felony cases are handled in New Hampshire courts:

1. Under Felonies First, any person charged with a felony will be scheduled for an arraignment (i.e., an initial court appearance where a plea is entered and bail may be set or changed) in the Superior Court and the case will be prosecuted by the county attorney's office. This is a major change from the old rules, which permitted felony cases to be filed in the local circuit court by a local police or town prosecutor. 

2.  It doesn't matter if a person is also charged with misdemeanor offenses. If a person is facing multiple charges and at least one of the charges is a felony, the entire case, including any misdemeanor charges, will be transferred to the superior court.

3.  Under the old rules, a person charged with a felony in circuit court was entitled to a probable cause hearing, which is a preliminary hearing where a prosecutor must show that there is a basis to believe that a felony was committed and that the person charged is responsible.  Under Felonies First, probable cause hearings are not automatic, and the defendant must now show that he or she meets certain statutory criteria before a judge will consider scheduling this type of hearing. 

4.  In Rockingham County, any felony charge that was filed before October 1, 2017, or was filed after that date but alleges criminal conduct before October 1, will be handled under the old felony procedures. This means that an arraignment and probable cause hearing may still be held in the Circuit Court before the case is indicted and brought to Superior Court.

If you are looking for legal reprsentation or advice about a felony charge, you should speak with a lawyer immediately, and, when possible, prior to the arraignment.  We have been reprsenting people in felony cases in the New Hampshire courts for over two decades.  You can schedule a consultation at any of our office or conference locations by calling (603) 775-7570 or send an email to help@swnhlaw.com.

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