Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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Petitioner, corporate surety Second Chance Bail Bonds, appealed a superior court order requiring that a $10,000 bond petitioner posted for defendant James Castine be forfeited after defendant violated several bail conditions. On appeal, petitioner argued the trial court erred because it can order forfeiture of a bond only if a defendant fails to appear for a court date, and not for violation of other bail conditions. Alternatively, petitioner argues that the trial court erred by ordering forfeiture of the entire $10,000 bond. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the bond forfeiture. View "Petition of Second Chance Bail Bonds (New Hampshire v. Castine)" on Justia Law

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Defendant Edward Proctor was convicted by jury on one count of violating RSA 632-A:10, I, which prohibited people convicted of certain offenses from "knowingly undertak[ing] employment or volunteer service involving the care, instruction or guidance of minor children." Defendant was previously convicted of sexual assault, and at the time of the events leading to his conviction, was on parole. As a result of his conviction, he was required to report quarterly to the local police department so as to initial or sign a sex offender registration form. By initialing or signing the form, the defendant acknowledged that he could not work in positions involving children, including, but not limited to, providing service as a teacher, coach, daycare worker, scout master, summer camp counselor, guidance counselor, or school administrator. Defendant operated his own landscaping business that provided services such as snow-blowing and yard work. In February 2016, defendant provided snow-blowing services for the neighbor of a juvenile in Hooksett. Initially, defendant hired the juvenile to clear the neighbor’s driveway for him. In May 2016, defendant hired the juvenile to work for him on other jobs. He would pick up the juvenile at the juvenile’s home in Hooksett and drive him to job sites in Deerfield and Northwood. The work involved filling in pot holes, pulling weeds, and laying down bark mulch. Defendant told the juvenile what to do and showed him how to do it. The juvenile’s mother learned that defendant was a registered sex offender and directed her son to cease working for him. Defendant's motion to dismiss the indictment on grounds that the statute was unconstitutional was denied. Focusing on the phrase "the care, instruction or guidance of minor children," the New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded the statute did not preclude a person with a qualifying conviction from knowingly undertaking employment as a landscaper because landscaping is not a service that "by [its] nature provide[s] access to children." As such, the Court disagreed with the State's argument that "the care, instruction or guidance" of a minor with the supervision of a minor, and reversed the trial court's judgment. View "New Hampshire v. Proctor" on Justia Law

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Defendants were all arrested and convicted of violating a Laconia Ordinance prohibiting nudity in public places. They jointly moved to dismiss the charges against them, arguing the ordinance violated the guarantee of equal protection and their right to free speech under the State and Federal Constitutions. They further contended that the City of Laconia lacked the authority to enact the ordinance and that the ordinance was preempted by RSA 645:1 (2016). Finally, defendants maintained that the ordinance violated RSA chapter 354-A. Following a hearing, the court denied the defendants’ motion, and subsequently found them guilty of violating the ordinance. The New Hampshire Supreme Court agreed with the trial court that the ordinance merely prohibited those who access public places from doing so in the nude, and made a permissible distinction between the areas of the body that must be covered by each gender. Accordingly, their convictions were affirmed. View "New Hampshire v. Lilley" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Kenneth Hart appealed a superior court order denying his petition for a writ of habeas corpus, alleging that he was incompetent to waive his right to counsel and represent himself at trial and on appeal following his convictions of multiple felonies in February 2000. In 1998, the petitioner was arrested and charged with two alternative counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault (AFSA), one count of witness tampering, and one count of resisting arrest. Prior to trial, the petitioner was provided with court-appointed counsel, but he dismissed three of these attorneys and moved to represent himself at trial. The State objected and, after a hearing on the motion, the Trial Court ruled that “a ‘bona fide and legitimate doubt’ exists as to the [petitioner’s] current competency to stand trial and particularly his ability to clearly and effectively waive his constitutional right to counsel” and ordered that the petitioner submit to a psychiatric evaluation. Upon review of the record of the trial court’s colloquy with petitioner, the New Hampshire Supreme Court agreed with the habeas court’s finding and, thus, the trial court’s conclusion, that petitioner understood the implications of waiving his right to counsel and knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived his right to counsel. Thus, petitioner has not met his burden of establishing a fundamental error of law or fact necessary to obtain writ relief. View "Hart v. Warden, New Hampshire State Prison" on Justia Law

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Defendant Lisa Jacobs appealed both a jury verdict and a permanent injunction issued by the trial court in favor of plaintiffs Lorraine and Peter MacDonald. Defendant seasonally resided in Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire. According to plaintiffs, in 2012 they purchased a vacation home that abuts or was near defendant’s family’s property. Thereafter, defendant began letter-writing campaigns in which she falsely accused plaintiffs of, among other things, a variety of illegal activities. In 2016, plaintiffs sued defendant for defamation. Following a trial, the jury found that defendant’s statements were defamatory and that they were made with malice, thereby warranting the award of special damages. In addition, the trial court, finding defendant’s statements “vast and disturbing,” issued a permanent injunction prohibiting defendant from, inter alia, going within a five-mile radius of plaintiffs’ home in Fitzwilliam and from entering plaintiffs’ hometown in Sterling, Massachusetts. On appeal, defendant argued the trial court erred by: (1) denying a mistrial when plaintiffs’ counsel made a “golden rule” argument to the jury; (2) denying her motion for summary judgment because New Hampshire required proof of “actual damages” for defamation; (3) applying an incorrect standard to plaintiffs’ claim for enhanced compensatory damages; (4) determining that defendant’s speech was not of “public concern;” (5) admitting prejudicial other bad act evidence; and (6) “ordering [her] physical removal . . . from her family’s vacation property” in Fitzwilliam and “banishing” her from Sterling. The New Hampshire Supreme Court found no reversible error and affirmed the trial court's judgment. View "MacDonald v. Jacobs" on Justia Law

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Defendant George Colbath was convicted by jury on 17 charges of aggravated felonious sexual assault (AFSA). On appeal, he argued the Superior Court erred by admitting evidence of certain uncharged conduct pursuant to New Hampshire Rule of Evidence 404(b). He also argued the Superior Court erred by allowing two witnesses to testify about statements that he allegedly made about the victim’s appearance. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "New Hampshire v. Colbath" on Justia Law

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Defendant Joel Martin appealed his convictions for second degree murder, second degree assault, and being a felon in possession of a dangerous weapon. Charges arose from a 2015 fight outside a Manchester, New Hampshire nightclub. He argued the Superior Court erred when it: (1) failed to inquire how he wanted to proceed if his motion to discharge his counsel were granted; and (2) denied his request to instruct the jury to consider the effect of alcohol intoxication on eyewitness identification testimony. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "New Hampshire v. Martin" on Justia Law

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Defendant Jeffrey Keenan appealed his conviction for driving a motor vehicle while his vehicle registration privileges were suspended. Because defendant’s conviction was based upon his lawful operation of a vehicle owned and registered to his son, the New Hampshire Supreme Court reversed. “The State’s interpretation would also prohibit this same individual from renting and operating a vehicle owned, properly registered, and insured by a car rental agency. Indeed, this interpretation equates the suspension of an individual’s registration privileges with a suspension of his or her driving privileges, despite the fact that these two privileges are distinct and are governed by separate statutes. We do not find that these results are either logical or just.” View "New Hampshire v. Keenan" on Justia Law

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A jury convicted defendant Abhishek Sachdev on two counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault and one count of simple assault. On appeal, defendant argued the trial court erred when it denied his motion to suppress upon finding that: (1) he was not in custody for Miranda purposes when he was questioned by detectives about the alleged assault; and (2) his consent to search the store and his person were “voluntary and free of duress and coercion.” Finding no error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed his conviction. View "New Hampshire v. Sachdev" on Justia Law

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Defendant Hjalmar Bjorkman was convicted by jury on one count of using computer services for a prohibited purpose. He challenged the trial court’s denial of his motion to dismiss, contending that jury selection did not fulfill the requirement under the Interstate Agreement on Detainers (IAD) that a defendant be “brought to trial” within 180 days of filing a request for final disposition. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed Bjorkman’s conviction. View "New Hampshire v. Bjorkman" on Justia Law