Frequently Asked Questions

When do you need a criminal defense lawyer?

It is best to contact a defense lawyer before being arrested, or as soon as possible after you suspect a charge may be coming. It is imperative that you not make any statements or answer any questions. The police may ask you to come talk to them? It is better to call a lawyer than provide any information to the police. The sooner you speak with a lawyer the better chance you have of avoiding an arrest or conviction. A good lawyer will provide sound advice and may help gather relevant information and investigate any defenses. A lawyer will also be able to contact the police, prosecutor and ultimately assist with getting bail and securing your release.

Should I talk to the police?

No.  When the police ask you to speak they have probably already been investigating the situation and are likely looking to answer a few remaining issues or want to get an incriminating statement or confession.  It is important to politely decline. There is no reason to be offensive or rude, simply indicate that you have nothing to say or that you are too busy. You should then call a defense lawyer.

Do I need a lawyer’s help if I am accused of a crime?

It is in your best interest to consult a criminal defense lawyer as early as possible if you suspect you will be facing the criminal justice system. An attorney will fight for your legal and constitutional rights, and monitor the proceedings for legality and fairness. If you cannot afford an attorney, you may be eligible for public defender.

What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor?

In New Hampshire (NH) a felony is a crime that is punishable by a year or more in prison.

NH has two kinds of misdemeanors: class A misdemeanors are a crimes that are punishable by imprisonment of a maximum of one year in the house of corrections and up to $2,000 fines and class B misdemeanors are crimes that carry no incarceration and have a maximum fine of $1,200. 

In NH there are also violation level offenses that carry no incarceration and have fines associated. Felonies are the most serious crimes followed by misdemeanors and violations. Any criminal conviction may impact your rights and privileges and should be taken seriously.

I was arrested and charged with a felony and have court next week. What do I need to do?

New Hampshire adopted felonies first to try speed up the court process and streamline cases.  The effect is that people who are charged with a felony must appear in the superior court in a very short time period often within a week.  The first court appearance is called an arraignment where the charges are explained, a plea of not guilty is entered and bail is set. It is vital to talk with a defense lawyer as soon as possible to better understand the charges, defenses and develop a plan.

What should I do if I am arrested in New Hampshire?

If the police arrest you, do not answer any questions and immediately ask to speak with an attorney. Do not speak to the police without your criminal defense attorney present; doing so could result in you incriminating yourself.

What happens after I am arrested and released?

After being arrested you will normally be released on personal recognizance bail and given an arraignment date.  An arraignment is an initial or first appearance in court. You will be provided the actual charges, enter a plea and bail will be addressed.  You should contact a lawyer as soon as possible to help guide you through the process. A defense lawyer can explain your rights and the procedures as well as prepare the case for trial.

What happens if I am arrested and held in preventative detention?

If a person is charged with any crime of domestic violence in RSA 173-B:1, I or a violation of a protective order under RSA 458:16, III, or simple assault DV related offenses, or after arraignment, with a violation of a protective order issued under RSA 173-B or many other very serious offenses (second degree assault, first degree assault, reckless conduct, negligent homicide, manslaughter, murder) the court may order preventive detention without bail.  This means that you will not be released due to a court finding that release will endanger the safety of that person or the public. A defense lawyer will be able to request a subsequent bail hearing where live testimony can be presented to the court in an attempt to get bail reduced to PR. There is a presumption in NH that citizens be released on PR bail but in certain cases preventive detention may be ordered through the trial process.

What if the police don’t read me my rights?

This is the most commonly asked question. 

The failure to read rights may not make any difference to your case. The importance of being read your rights depends on whether a person is in custody.  In other words if the police ask you questions and you answer them but you are not in custody it is considered voluntary and may be used in court against you.  If you are under arrest or in custody any statements you make in response to questions may be suppressed and kept out of court. Failure to have your rights read to you does not mean that you will automatically win your case.  The Miranda rights are intended to protect citizens who are under arrest from making incriminating statements.

What is the role of the prosecutor?

The prosecutor is the person who represents the government in a case against a criminal defendant. In NH there are several different titles depending on the offense and jurisdiction. Some common titles include NH Attorney General, Assistant NH Attorney General, County attorney, assistant county attorney, and town or police prosecutor.

The prosecutor is tasked with seeking justice including: punishment, deterrence and rehabilitation for those committing crimes, balanced with the duty to fairly try such individuals. In many NH towns local police and troopers prosecute their own cases in the District Courts.

What is the difference between probation and parole?

Probation is condition imposed in a criminal sentence that allows creates a reduced liberty interest allowing a person to stay in the community rather than serve time in jail as long as he or she complies with certain conditions (like regularly reporting to a probation officer, refraining from alcohol and drugs, holding down a job, not associating with certain people and not committing further crimes).

Parole is the supervised release of a prisoner from incarceration into the community after a period of imprisonment at a State prison. Conditions of parole are often similar to those of probation and the officer supervising either class of offender is referred to as a probation and parole officer.

What is restitution in the criminal law context?

A criminal sentence may include the payment of restitution to the victim or victims for their losses associated with the crime.

Restitution may include compensation for: property damage or loss, medical and rehabilitation expenses, lost income, or funeral expenses. Part of the philosophy behind criminal restitution is to give the criminal offender a direct part in making things whole for his or her victim.

What is white-collar crime?

White-collar crime refers generally to non-violent financial crimes involving fraud or other dishonesty committed in business or commercial contexts. Examples include insider trading, embezzlement, wire or securities fraud, and tax evasion.

How are children and youth prosecuted?

A minor is typically prosecuted for criminal conduct as a delinquent in a separate juvenile court system. The delinquency law RSA 169-B is confidential and the proceedings are closed to the public. The records are also sealed. Juvenile proceedings mirror an adult criminal charge with an emphasis on rehabilitation and services.

In New Hampshire (NH) any child who is charged with a crime under 18 years of age will likely be charged as a delinquent. Particularly violent crimes may, depending on the age of the offender or severity, be tried in adult criminal court.

It is important to contact a criminal defense lawyer familiar with the juvenile delinquency laws and criminal law if you child is charged.

Contact Len Harden With Any Additional Criminal Law Questions You May Have

Call (or text) 603.788.2080 or email

There is a lot more to a trial than can be covered by frequently asked questions. Getting competent, aggressive and experienced local legal assistance can help take a lot of the uncertainty out of the process. Attorney Harden is available 24 hours a day for emergency consultations with appointments at your convenience.