Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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Defendant Michael Hanes appealed after a jury convicted him for improper influence. The charges arose over Pembroke New Hampshire's Department of Public Works plowed the town's roads and sidewalks; defendant contacted David Jodoin, town administrator, and complained about the snow removal on his street and the fact that he had been “plowed in.” Defendant left an expletive-laden voicemail for Jodoin. Jodoin testified that defendant’s message “started out pretty calm, reasonable, and then it just went from like zero to 60 and accelerated within like three seconds. It was loud, yelling, screaming, threatening, wanted somebody fired, and then the threats came in.” After listening to the message, Jodoin contacted the police because “[a]ny time anybody . . . threatens another individual, that . . . becomes a police issue,” and because he was concerned about the safety of town employees. Defendant argued on appeal there was insufficient evidence to sustain the verdict, that the speech underlying his conviction enjoyed constitutional protection, and that the trial court committed plain error in failing to sua sponte strike part of a witness’s testimony. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "New Hampshire v. Hanes" on Justia Law

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The New Hampshire Secretary of State transmitted a certified copy of a resolution of the Governor and Executive Council requesting an opinion of the New Hampshire Supreme Court regarding House Bill 1264, an act to amend the definition of “resident” and “residence” in RSA 21:6 and 21:6-a. The Supreme Court concluded the request was proper for it to issue an advisory opinion. The problem that gave rise to the proposed change in the law of residency set forth in HB 1264 was that the definitions were interpreted to impose requirements that went beyond the traditional definition of “domicile. The result – counterintuitive as it may be – is that, notwithstanding the ‘resident’ and ‘residence’ labels used in their titles, to satisfy the current definitions… requires a degree of connection to a place that is greater than that required to be domiciled in this state for voting purposes pursuant to RSA 654:1, I (2016).” To correct this problem, HB 1264 removed the words “for the indefinite future” from the text of RSA 21:6 and :6-a. If HB 1264 became law, out-of-state students who come to New Hampshire to attend a postsecondary institution or others, who were able to establish a “sufficient attachment to the state” to satisfy the requirements of domicile, would be entitled to vote in New Hampshire. “There is nothing unfair or unconstitutional about state laws that require persons to make this choice.” View "Opinion of the Justices (Definition of Resident and Residence)" on Justia Law

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Defendant Brittany Boggs appealed two felony convictions by jury on charges relating to issuing bad checks. She argued on appeal: (1) that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to convict her of either felony; and (2) as to one of the charges, the trial court violated her due process rights, as guaranteed by the State and Federal Constitutions, by instructing the jury on the presumption of knowledge set forth in RSA 638:4, II (2016). The two checks were used to pay for defendant's wedding reception. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded: (1) a reasonable juror could have understood the jury instruction to create a mandatory presumption that shifted the burden to the defendant on the element of intent with respect to one of defendant's convictions, and because the trial court’s instructions, read as a whole, did not explain or cure this deficiency, the instruction violated the defendant’s state constitutional right to due process; and (2) defendant did not meet her “burden to demonstrate that no rational trier of fact, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the State, could have found guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.” Therefore, the Court reversed in part, affirmed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "New Hampshire v. Boggs" on Justia Law

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Defendant Robert Norman appealed his convictions on seven counts of possession of child sexual abuse images following a bench trial on stipulated facts in Superior Court. On appeal, he argued the superior court erred by denying his motion to suppress in which he argued that the affidavit submitted in support of the search warrant application failed to establish probable cause that his electronic devices would contain child sexual abuse images. He also argued the evidence was insufficient to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the images associated with the seven indictments depicted sexually explicit conduct. Furthermore, defendant challenged three of the indictments on the ground that the images associated with them did not depict a child. Viewing the affidavit in a common-sense manner and considering the totality of the circumstances, the New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded the magistrate did not have a substantial basis for finding that there was a fair probability that child sexual abuse images would be found on defendant’s electronic devices. In this case, the images that the officers viewed on defendant’s laptop were of adult women “in various stages of undress and positions,” girls in sundresses, and female teenagers in cheerleader outfits. The affidavit did not allege that any of the images the police viewed constituted child sexual abuse images. The Supreme Court reversed defendant's conviction and remanded for further proceedings. View "New Hampshire v. Norman" on Justia Law

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Defendant Jeremy Surrell appealed a superior court order denying his petition to suspend his sentence under RSA 651:20, I (2016). Defendant was indicted on four counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault (AFSA). These indictments alleged that, on four occasions, the defendant engaged in fellatio with a child under the age of thirteen. In May 2013, defendant pleaded guilty to two of the AFSA charges and the State entered a nolle prosequi on the other two. The trial court sentenced defendant to a stand committed sentence of seven and one-half to fifteen years and to a suspended sentence of ten to twenty years. On appeal, defendant argued RSA 651:20, I, prohibited a trial court from denying “a petition on the basis, even in part, of the nature of the offense conduct” and, therefore, the trial court erred when it denied his petition on that basis. He also argued that, even if pursuant to RSA 651:20, I, a trial court can take account of the nature of the offense, the court erred when it denied the petition to suspend solely on that basis without “weigh[ing] [his] rehabilitative success against the need for further punishment.” In affirming the superior court's decision, the New Hampshire Supreme Court determined it was evident the trial court, after considering both the defendant’s rehabilitative efforts and the punitive purpose of his sentence, simply reached a conclusion opposite of that desired by the defendant. View "New Hampshire v. Surrell" on Justia Law

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Richard Exline appealed a circuit court order denying his motion for the immediate return of seized property on the ground that the affidavit supporting the search warrant under which the seizure occurred failed to establish probable cause. In March 2017, a warrant was issued to search “any computer, computer system, mobile digital device, camera, router, wi-fi device, cellular telephone, smart phone, [and] commercial software and hardware” located at 1832 Candia Road in Manchester, New Hampshire (Exline’s residence). The warrant stated that there was probable cause to believe that the property so described was relevant to the crimes of identity fraud, and tampering with public or private records. The affidavit submitted in support of the warrant application avers that, on August 5, 2016, the affiant, a state police detective, received an e-mail message from the assistant commissioner for the New Hampshire Department of Safety (DOS) regarding e-mail messages that had been received by State of New Hampshire officials and employees. The assistant commissioner was concerned that there had been a “cyber-attack.” Based upon the totality of the circumstances as reflected in the circuit court record, the New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded that the affidavit afforded the magistrate a substantial basis for believing that there was a fair probability that Exline’s residence and the objects seized contained evidence of the crime of identity fraud. View "In re Search Warrant for 1832 Candia Road, Manchester, New Hampshire" on Justia Law

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Defendant David Burris was indicted on three counts of felony reckless conduct. The indictment alleged defendant engaged in reckless conduct when, during a home visit to a probationer he was supervising, he discharged a firearm three times at a motor vehicle operated by the probationer. The Superior Court denied defendant’s motion to dismiss the charges but approved an interlocutory appeal. Because the New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded defendant was not entitled to transactional immunity under Part I, Article 15 of the New Hampshire Constitution, it affirmed and remanded. View "New Hampshire v. Burris" on Justia Law

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Defendant Kevin Drown was convicted by jury on three counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault, and one count of felonious sexual assault. On appeal, he argued the Trial Court erred by permitting the prosecutor to: (1) argue that it was difficult for the victim to testify, and because she did so, she must be credible; (2) ask the defendant for his opinion about the victim’s credibility; and (3) argue that the defendant’s opinions about the victim’s credibility were inculpatory and contradicted his counsel’s argument. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed Drown’s convictions. View "New Hampshire v. Drown" on Justia Law

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Defendant Bailey Serpa appealed a superior court order requiring him to register as a sexual offender. On appeal, defendant argued registration as a sexual offender for a conviction of violating RSA 649-B:4 was contrary to the manifest objectives of RSA 632-A:4 and violated constitutional requirements that all penalties be proportional to the offense. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the superior court order. View "New Hampshire v. Serpa" on Justia Law

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Defendant Brian Watson appealed his conviction by a jury for felony sale of a controlled drug with death resulting. On appeal, he argued the superior court erred by: (1) denying his motion to suppress statements allegedly obtained in violation of his Miranda rights; and (2) allowing a forensic toxicologist, Dr. Daniel Isenschmid, to testify to the results of toxicology tests that he did not conduct. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "New Hampshire v. Watson" on Justia Law