Encyclopedia of Criminal Justice Terms
The judgment of a court, that the defendant is not guilty of a charged criminal offense.
The adjudicatory hearing is similar to a criminal trial, although it is held before a judge alone; there is no jury. Most of the rules of procedure seen in adult criminal trials apply, with lawyers making motions and objections to raise legal issues with the court. Witnesses are called to testify by the prosecution to establish the elements, or parts, of the offense charged. If the charge is established with proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the court enters a finding of delinquency and the case is scheduled for a dispositional hearing, similar to a sentencing hearing.
The request that a court with appellate jurisdiction review the decision of a lower court and change it. The term also refers to the proceedings associated with that request. In New Hampshire, the vast majority of appeals are heard by the New Hampshire Supreme Court. The superior court also hears de novo appeals of misdemeanor cases first handled in the district court, but such proceedings involve a new trial rather than a review of legal decisions made by the district court. Another proceeding which in some cases can be similar to an appeal is the petition for writ of habeas corpus, in which a court may review the decisions in an earlier proceeding which led to the confinement of a criminal defendant or juvenile in a delinquency proceeding.
The arraignment is the first court proceeding in most delinquency cases. At the arraignment, the court allows the juvenile to enter an initial plea "true" or "not true" in place of the adult pleas of "guilty" or "not guilty." The court also determines what conditions may apply to the juvenile while the court proceedings are pending, such as a curfew, drug testing, or confinement while awaiting conclusion of the case. An attorney may be appointed to represent the juvenile if the family cannot afford counsel.
The hearing at which charges are formally presented to the defendant and at which an initial plea may be entered. Matters such as assignment of counsel and bail conditions are also frequently handled at the same time. When handled formally, the judge or clerk of court will read aloud the charges in their entirety and ask the defendant to plead guilty or not guilty in response. In most cases where the defendant is represented by counsel, formal reading of the charge is waived. The purpose of the hearing is to ensure that the defendant is aware of the charges and the potential penalties and commences preparation for trial. In felony cases, the defendant may be arraigned at the district court on the felony complaint, and then later at the superior court on the indictment. In such cases, the district court arraignment will not include the entry of an initial plea, as that court does not have full jurisdiction over felony cases, but rather can only set bail and hold the probable cause hearing.
When a law enforcement officer takes someone into their custody, they have performed an arrest. Regardless of the basis for the arrest, a person is not permitted to resist the arrest so long as the officer is using reasonable and lawful force. Although most criminal cases begin with arrest and are followed by the filing of a formal charge, some cases go through the investigation and charging process before anyone is taken into custody.
A court proceeding at which bail is set or modified
A bench warrant is a court's command to arrest someone due to the failure of some obligation to the court. Bench warrants are most commonly issued when a criminal defendant fails to appear for a court proceeding. They are also frequently used when orders to pay fines are not complied with.
Children may be ordered, or "certified," to stand trial as adults for certain felony offenses. To determine whether a case will be handled in adult court, the juvenile court considers such matters as the child's age, maturity, and prior contacts with law enforcement, the seriousness of the charge, and the availability of appropriate sanctions in the juvenile system. If a child is charged with committing certain serious offenses such as murder, certain sexual assaults, or robbery, and is at least age 15, there is a presumption that the child's case will be transferred to the superior court for trial as an adult.
CHILDREN IN NEED OF SERVICES (CHINS)
Children in need of services, or CHINS, is a procedure whereby children may be adjudicated without proof of commission of a crime. Often used for truancy.
A written statement of criminal charges against a defendant. The vast majority of New Hampshire criminal cases are brought in the first instance by complaint. Most misdemeanor charges continue to completion in the form of complaints, while defendants in felony cases have a right to indictment, which requires review of the charges by a grand jury.
Similar to probation in the adult criminal system, a sentence which includes conditional release allows the juvenile to remain unconfined, subject to the supervision of a Juvenile Probation/Parole Officer (JPPO). Conditional Release may involve any of a wide range of conditions set by the court and/or JPPO, including substance or mental health treatment, curfew, attendance at school, restitution, and community service. Violation of any of the terms of conditional release may subject the juvenile to any of the penalties that were available at the initial dispositional hearing, up to and including commitment to the Youth Development Center.
When the court determines that the defendant is guilty of an offense, the defendant is said to be convicted. The judgment of conviction may be based on the verdict at a trial or on the plea of guilty or nolo contender of the defendant.
Court action to officially declare someone a juvenile delinquent. A "delinquent" is defined as under the age of majority who has been convicted in juvenile court of something that would be classified as a crime in adult court.
In New Hampshire and most other states, this means an act which if done by an adult would be a crime.
A hearing held to determine if a child will be held in a locked facility until delinquency charges are addressed by the court. In New Hampshire, a child may only be detained if the court is satisfied that there is evidence to support the charges and it is likely that the child will either flee or create a danger to self or others if not detained.
When parole or probation is completed and the offender is no longer subject to the jurisdiction of the department of corrections, s/he is said to be "discharged."
This is the termination of a court proceeding, typically by court order. A court may order that charges in a criminal or juvenile case be dismissed for any number of reasons, such as some defect in the way that the crime is charged, an irregularity in grand jury proceedings, or as a sanction for misconduct by the police or prosecution.
Very similar to a sentencing hearing, the dispositional hearing is typically held a few weeks after the adjudicatory hearing or plea of true to the offense. At the hearing the court may have a report from a juvenile probation/parole officer that describes the background of the juvenile, her treatment needs, and the consequences of the offense to any victims. The report may also recommend some combination of punishment and rehabilitative services to ordered against the juvenile. The prosecutor and the juvenile or her attorney are permitted to make their own recommendations and the court enters a dispositional order, or sentence. It may include a wide variety of sanctions, including conditional release, similar to probation, rehabilitative services such as substance abuse counseling, placement in a residential facility, or commitment to the Youth Development Center for the remainder of the juvenile's minority.
The juvenile court is required to review the disposition of children found delinquent at least annually, and may schedule earlier reviews as a matter of course or at the request of the juvenile, JPPO, or prosecution. At such review hearings, the court may modify the original dispositional order.
There are 36 District Courts in New Hampshire, located in most cities and large towns. Their jurisdiction includes juvenile delinquency matters, misdemeanors, and preliminary matters in felony cases. They also handle a variety of non-criminal matters, such as motor vehicle offenses, domestic violence cases, landlord-tenant disputes, and small claims suits.
A process by which a juvenile is redirected from the juvenile justice system to a community-based program, typically consisting of community service, counseling, and similar programs. Diversion may occur as early as first contact with the police or as part of a court-ordered disposition after charges are filed in court. Diversion may also be used in adult cases. In at least one New Hampshire county, persons accused of non-violent felonies without prior felony records are in some cases permitted to participate in a diversion program that can result in dismissal of charges upon successful completion.
More serious crimes, felonies are divided into various categories. All felonies carry a potential penalty of a state prison sentence of more than a year, and major felony convictions can result in lengthy prison sentences up to life in prison. Conviction of a felony can also trigger substantial fines and lengthy periods of probation. The penalty may be a state prison sentence from one year and a day up to a sentence of death and/or a fine of $4,000 or less. A category of special felonies is provided for in the Controlled Drug Act under which the penalty may be a state prison sentence of up to 30 years and/or a fine of $500,000 or less.
The fine for misdemeanor cases may not exceed two thousand dollars, and in most felony cases may not exceed four thousand dollars. Some drug-related felonies may carry fines of several hundred thousand dollars.
A reduction in a sentence based on behavior during the service of the sentence. This is a common device used to encourage good behavior in corrections facilities. As a technical matter, good time in New Hampshire only applies to sentences to the Houses of Corrections (which must be no longer than one year per sentence). In the case of prison sentences, New Hampshire retains the incentive of good time without actual reductions in the sentences imposed by adding a "disciplinary period" to each sentence, which may be reduced through good behavior.
A group of persons which hears the evidence to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to bring a potential defendant to trial. Although uncommon in New Hampshire, grand juries may also be used to investigate criminal activity generally, and to investigate the conduct of public agencies and officials. A grand jury may issue subpoenas to require the production of documents and the attendance of particular witnesses. While the petit jury in the trial of a criminal case must act unanimously, the grand jury may approve an action with a simple majority. Grand juries in New Hampshire sit in each county consist of 23 persons and typically sit for a day or two each month.
Although any criminal defendant has an absolute right to plead not guilty and to force the prosecution to prove their guilt at trial, each defendant also has the right to plead guilty and admit the charges. When a defendant pleads guilty in most courts, the judge will ask several questions to ensure that the defendant is aware of the rights s/he is giving up due to the plea and the possible consequences of the resulting conviction.
HOUSE OF CORRECTIONS
Each county in New Hampshire has a House of Corrections. These facilities hold prisoners in lieu of bail who are awaiting trial and those persons who have been convicted of crimes and are serving sentences of a year or less in length.
A formal accusation of crime handed up by the grand jury of the county in which the offense is alleged to have occurred. In New Hampshire, all felony cases can only be charged by indictment unless the defendant waives the right to an indictment.
Criminal investigations may proceed in a variety of ways. Uniformed patrol officers frequently detect street or traffic crimes and conduct the full investigations themselves. In larger departments there may be detectives assigned to certain classes of cases to interview witnesses and perform other investigative tasks. In some complex or serious cases, prosecutors may become involved during the investigative stage of cases and give legal advice to the police about such matters as search warrants and questioning of suspects. Prosecutors may also participate if a grand jury investigation is commenced, assisting with the summoning and questioning of witnesses and other investigation performed by the grand jurors.
Similar to an adult criminal charge, a juvenile delinquency petition is the beginning of a prosecution. It lays out the specific criminal offense that the juvenile is alleged to have committed. Unlike an adult charge, a delinquency petition does not differentiate between grades of offense; all delinquency charges carry the same potential penalties.
JUVENILE PROBATION AND PAROLE OFFICERS (JPPOs)
Juvenile Probation and Parole Officers (JPPOs) conduct investigations and provide supervision of delinquent youth minors and Children In Need of Services (CHINS) referred by either NH District Courts or NH Family Division Courts. Juvenile Probation and Parole Officers also provide supervision of committed delinquents paroled from the Youth Development Center.
MINIMUM SECURITY UNIT
In the New Hampshire prison system, the minimum security unit, or MSU, houses inmates who are considered lower risk of escape or other misbehavior. Often a move into the MSU precedes release on parole at the end of a prisoner's minimum sentence.
The least serious crimes in New Hampshire, misdemeanors are divided into class A and B offenses. Conviction of a class A misdemeanor can result in a sentence of imprisonment of no more than one year at a county house of corrections, a fine of no more than $2,000, up to two years probation, and in cases involving certain motor vehicle offenses, loss of driving privileges. Typical class A misdemeanors include simple assault, criminal trespass, resisting arrest, and driving while intoxicated, subsequent offense. Conviction of a class B misdemeanor carries a potential fine but no possibility of imprisonment. Some misdemeanor cases can be charged as either a class A or class B offense.
Two or more trials may be held in particular criminal cases under several circumstances. If the jury is unable to agree unanimously to a verdict or if some irregularity during the trial prevents it from being concluded, then the trial judge will declare a mistrial and in most cases the trial will be repeated. Similarly, if the appellate court decides that mistakes were made by the trial judge which had a significant effect on the fairness of the trial, they will reverse the conviction and remand the case to the trial court for a new trial.
Used in both juvenile and adult cases in New Hampshire, parole is the conditional release of a prisoner into the community. Release on parole typically requires supervision of a parole officer, remaining crime-free and compliance with specific conditions such as curfews, remaining employed, and abstaining from alcohol. Violations of any condition of parole can trigger return to the prison or Youth Development Center.
Whenever any of the conditions of parole are alleged to be violated, the parole officer may file a request with parole board that the parole board review the circumstances and determine if the parolee will remain at liberty or will be returned to the prison to serve some or all of the remaining sentence. Commonly, parolees are taken into custody upon the making of the allegation of parole violation. In addition to revoking parole outright, the parole board may order that a prisoner remain in custody for a predetermined time with a scheduled hearing for re-parole, recommend that the prisoner be immediately placed in a reduced custody status such as at one of the halfway houses, or similar action.
A method of disposing of case without a trial. Most defendants plead guilty. The defendant may agree to plead guilty to the crime(s) charged or to a lesser offense, and there may be an agreement that the District Attorney's Office will recommend a sentence to the judge. The judge may accept or reject the plea.
The department of corrections conducts investigations of the background of the case and of the defendant in many felony cases, and in a few misdemeanor cases. During the pre-sentence investigation, a probation/parole officer will gather information from the police, victims, defendant, and the attorneys involved to develop a written report to the trial judge to assist in the sentencing decision.
A state or federal place of confinement for persons convicted of crimes. Typically, prisons are used for sentences of more than one year while houses of corrections are used for shorter sentences. Jails are used for confining persons while they await completion of the court proceedings in their cases.
PROBABLE CAUSE HEARING
In felony cases which originate by complaint rather than indictment, the district court will examine the evidence gathered by the police and prosecution to determine if there is sufficient evidence to keep the charges in place, maintain bail conditions, and refer the case to the superior court for possible indictment by the grand jury. This process occurs at a probable cause hearing, also known as a preliminary examination. Such hearings are much less formal than trials, typically being held with the testimony of only one or two witnesses who recount summaries of evidence collected during an investigation. In many felony cases, probable cause hearings are not actually held, either because an indictment is handed down before the hearing can be held, or because the defendant and prosecution agree that a formal examination is not necessary. In many cases, such agreements involve the delivery of information about the police investigation to the defense the case, agreements to reduce bail, or both.
A type of criminal sentence that permits the offender to remain unconfined so long as certain conditions are met, and subject to the supervision of a probation officer. In juvenile cases, the term conditional release refers to a probation-like status for children. In New Hampshire, violation of the terms of probation can result in the court re-sentencing the offender to up to the maximum permitted at the original sentencing.
Most criminal charges, regardless of their level of seriousness, are begun either due to the report of a crime to the police, or direct detection of crime by the police. Depending on the nature of the offense, the investigation of a crime may be as brief as the initial encounter between suspect and police or involve days, weeks, or months of investigation.
Just as problems in a trial may require that a criminal trial be repeated, defects in the sentencing procedure may require re-sentencing. Re-sentencing may be ordered by the sentencing court itself or by an appellate court.
As part of the disposition of a delinquency case, the court may order that the juvenile be placed in the care and supervision of a group home or residential treatment center. There are a variety of such agencies available in the state and region, with a variety of treatment orientations and degrees of supervision.
An amount of money, typically paid to a crime victim, as compensation for the loss suffered by criminal or delinquent conduct.
When a defendant successfully challenges her conviction on appeal, the appellate court will enter an order which reverses the decision of the lower court. In the vast majority of circumstances, the case is remanded, or returned, to the lower court for further proceedings such as a new trial. In a few circumstances, such as when the appellate court concludes that there was not sufficient evidence for a conviction, a new trial will not be permitted and the defendant will be discharged as if the verdict at trial had been not guilty.
The sanction in a criminal case. Sentences in most cases in new Hampshire can include a variety of different provisions, including terms of imprisonment, fines, probation, restitution to the victim, and community service. Except in capital cases, where one possible penalty is death, judges perform all of the sentencing functions in New Hampshire.
After a defendant has been convicted at trial or due to a plea of guilty, the court will hold a sentencing hearing. Both the prosecution and defendant are permitted to present evidence and argument in support of each party's position, following which the judge will pronounce the sentence. Most such hearings are brief and informal, but in serious cases they may be several hours in length and involve extensive evidence about such matters as the impact of the crime on the victim and victim's family and the prospects for rehabilitative treatment of the defendant.
When an offender is sentenced to a sentence that carries a maximum term in excess of one year, the sentence is to be served in one of New Hampshire's state prisons. In some unusual cases, the state prison authorities can transfer an inmate to another state, to the federal prison system, or to one of New Hampshire's county houses of corrections.
The New Hampshire Superior Courts handle the trials and other critical proceedings in all felonies and homicide cases. The superior court also handles some misdemeanor cases, either because they are associated with an ongoing felony prosecution or because the defendant has appealed from a guilty verdict in the district courts. There are eleven superior courts in New Hampshire, with one in each county and two in Hillsborough County (Nashua and Manchester).
Termination refers to the departure from the criminal justice system of an adjudicated youth at the conclusion of any court-ordered sanctions.
At the trial of a criminal case, evidence must be presented by the prosecution that is sufficient to prove guilt. Trials may be held before juries or judges sitting alone, but in either case the evidence must be sufficient to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt or the defendant must be found not guilty. Evidence at trials may be presented by witness testimony, documents and photographs, and direct observations of important places like crime scenes.
TRIAL DE NOVO
A new trial provided as though the criminal proceeding was beginning anew. In New Hampshire, most misdemeanor cases are tried for the first time before a judge in the district court. If the defendant is convicted, s/he is entitled to a trial de novo in the superior court as a matter of right. Such trials are nearly always held before juries as opposed to judges sitting alone.
TRUTH IN SENTENCING
In New Hampshire, "truth in sentencing" refers to the elimination of so-called "good time" in the early 1980's. Before the change, state prison inmates could serve as little as 7 months for every year of their minimum sentence before becoming eligible for release on parole. Following the release of a prisoner convicted of a highly publicized murder, the law was changed to require that prisoners serve no less than their minimum sentence. To encourage good behavior while serving a prison sentence, prisoners receive an additional 150 days of imprisonment for every year of their minimum sentence, and may earn reductions of that period for good behavior. However, such good behavior reductions cannot reduce their sentence below the minimum sentence imposed by the court.
WRIT OF HABEAS CORPUS
An extraordinary writ ordering a public officer holding a person in confinement to bring the person before the Court. This is used to secure the release from custody of minors or adults being held illegally.
YOUTH DETENTION SERVICES UNIT (YDSU)
The Youth Detention Services Unit (YDSU) is a 23-bed locked detention center that houses boys and girls up to 17 years of age who are charged with committing acts of delinquency and are awaiting the conclusion of their cases in the courts.
JOHN H. SUNUNU YOUTH SERVICES CENTER (FORMERLY YOUTH DEVELOPMENT CENTER - YDC)
The John H. Sununu Youth Services Center is New Hampshire's locked youth corrections facility. It can hold up to 108 boys and girls at any one time, and its residents can range in age from 12 to 17. When a youth is committed to the Youth Services Center, the first stage of residence is a classification and assignment process used to assign an appropriate secure placement within the Youth Services Center. There are several levels of security and supervision at the Youth Services Center, and a youth will typically progress through several of them during the term of commitment. Although commitments to the Youth Services Center are typically for the length of a youth's minority (in New Hampshire until age 17, most stays are between 8 and 12 months, and may depend on participation in treatment and educational programming and general behavior. Release from the Youth Services Center can be by court order, parole, or by reaching age 17. In some rare circumstances, a youth may be ordered to stay at the Youth Services Center after reaching age 17.