Justia New Hampshire Supreme Court Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Constitutional Law
In re G.W.
Respondent G.W. had, in her lifetime, received a variety of mental health diagnoses, including depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and borderline personality disorder. In May and June 2019, G.W. was arrested on a number of criminal charges, including criminal threatening and violation of a protective order, based upon her conduct towards a man with whom she previously had a romantic relationship and that man’s current partner (the complainants). G.W.’s conduct leading to her arrest included trespassing on the complainants’ property, contacting them after a protective order was in place, placing two improvised explosive devices and one incendiary device in the complainants’ vehicles, and making a bomb threat to the workplace of one of the complainants. G.W. appealed a circuit court decision ordering her involuntary admission to the Secure Psychiatric Unit (SPU) of the New Hampshire State Prison for a period of three years with a conditional discharge when and if clinically appropriate. On appeal, G.W. challenged the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the trial court’s conclusion that she met the involuntary admission standard. She also argued the court erred when it ordered that she remain in jail, where she had been detained on pending criminal charges, until a bed became available at the SPU. Finding no abuse of discretion or other reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the admission. View "In re G.W." on Justia Law
In re D.J.
Juvenile D.J. appealed a circuit court's finding of delinquency based on a petition alleging that he committed harassment under RSA 644:4, I(b) (Supp. 2021). The victim told the juveniles that they were not supposed to be riding bicycles on the sidewalk. D.J. told the victim to go “f**k himself.” D.J. continued to yell at the victim, who testified that D.J. was “swearing, saying f**k this and f**k that and you’re nothing but an old man.” The victim yelled back at D.J. and asserted that he could do martial arts. D.J. got off his bicycle, provoked the victim to fight, and took off his shirt. The owner of a store across the street from this encounter observed the confrontation and, after it had gone on for approximately five minutes, she began to record it using her cellphone. The store owner also called the police. The incident lasted approximately eight minutes, until a patrol officer arrived at the scene. D.J. argued there was insufficient evidence to support the trial court’s finding, and that RSA 644:4, I(b) was unconstitutional as applied and on its face. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "In re D.J." on Justia Law
New Hampshire v. Jordan
Defendant Michael Jordan appealed a superior court order denying his motion for earned time credits. On appeal, defendant argued the trial court erred when it declined to approve the recommendations made by the Commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Corrections that the defendant receive several 60-day reductions of his minimum and maximum sentences. The New Hampshire Supreme Court agreed with the trial court that courts have broad discretion to consider all relevant factors in their decision to grant, or decline to grant, approval for earned time credit, and that the court was free to consider either the crime for which the defendant was convicted or the degree of harm suffered by the victims when it exercises this discretion. Finding no abuse of such discretion, the Supreme Court affirmed the superior court's order. View "New Hampshire v. Jordan" on Justia Law
S.D. v. N.B.
Defendant N.B. appealed a final civil stalking protective order entered for the protection of plaintiff S.D. Plaintiff and Defendant knew each other since high school, but never had a personal relationship. Sometime after high school, Defendant developed a fixation with Plaintiff. Plaintiff testified that Defendant began to contact her via the internet sometime in 2017. Defendant agreed that he had made postings regarding Plaintiff, but testified that they began in 2019. The postings about Plaintiff included sexual suggestions and threats. The trial court held a final hearing on the stalking petition on February 8, 2022, and found that Defendant had stalked Plaintiff. Defendant argued that: (1) the evidence was insufficient to support a finding that he stalked Plaintiff; and (2) the court’s protective order violated his right to free speech under the First Amendment to the Federal Constitution. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the trial court. View "S.D. v. N.B." on Justia Law
New Hampshire v. Boudreau
Defendant Ian Boudreau was convicted by jury on fourteen counts of aggravated felonious sexual assault (AFSA). He argued on appeal that the trial court erred by: (1) improperly responding to a jury question during its deliberation concerning the State’s burden of proof; and (2) allowing the State to introduce evidence in its case-in-chief of the defendant’s pre-arrest refusal to speak to the police. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded: (1) the trial court sustainably exercised its discretion in responding to the jury question; and (2) though the trial court erred in admitting evidence of the defendant’s pre-arrest silence in the State’s case-in-chief, any error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. Accordingly, the judgment was affirmed. View "New Hampshire v. Boudreau" on Justia Law
New Hampshire v. Marquis
The State appealed a superior court’s grant of a motion to suppress statements made by defendant Caleb Marquis. Marquis was charged with several felonies relating t first- and second-degree burns to his girlfriend’s 16-month-old child in his care. The trial court ruled that defendant was subject to custodial interrogation at the time he gave the statements, and, because he was not given Miranda warnings, those statements were obtained in violation of his right against self-incrimination. The State contended that the entire interview should not be suppressed because, even if it became accusatory, it was not accusatory from start to end. The New Hampshire Supreme Court agreed after review of the record that the first few minutes of the interview were not accusatory and should not have been suppressed. Once an officer told defendant “it looks like you’re trying to be deceitful” and that “it potentially could be a criminal matter,” the interview became sufficiently accusatory that a reasonable person would believe himself to be in custody, and all subsequent statements should have been suppressed. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court’s suppression order as to the statements made by the defendant prior to these two statements by the officer, but otherwise affirmed the court’s decision. View "New Hampshire v. Marquis" on Justia Law
New Hampshire v. O’Brien
Defendant LeeAnn O’Brien was convicted by jury of possession of a narcotic drug and control of a vehicle where a controlled drug was illegally kept. On appeal, she argued the superior court erred by denying her motion to suppress evidence seized pursuant to a search of her vehicle following a motor vehicle stop. After review, the New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded the officer unlawfully expanded the scope of the stop for a defective license plate light by requesting the defendant’s consent to search her vehicle for drugs. Accordingly, judgment was reversed and remanded. View "New Hampshire v. O'Brien" on Justia Law
New Hampshire v. Lamontagne
Defendant Justin Lamontagne was convicted by jury on four counts of nonconsensual dissemination of private sexual images. Defendant and the victim were in a three-year romantic relationship. The relationship ended, but defendant and the victim stayed in contact. During the summer of 2019, defendant learned that the victim was in a relationship with another man. Defendant saw an image on the internet of a naked woman tied in ropes and hanging from a tree (the “bondage image”). The woman’s face was blurred and the image contained no information identifying her. Defendant believed the bondage image depicted the victim. Defendant sent the image to the victim through Facebook Messenger. This interaction led to a discussion of possible sexual activity in which defendant and the victim could engage, including making a video of them having sex. According to defendant, he and the victim formed an agreement whereby if the victim did not break up with her new boyfriend, defendant could send the video to whomever he wished. Defendant and the victim created the video, after this alleged agreement. According to the State, the sexual encounter and the filming of the video were consensual, but there was no agreement for the video’s release. Rather, the State contended that after making the video, defendant indicated that, amongst other things, the victim must see him once a week and end her relationship with her new boyfriend or defendant would release the video. The State contended that every time the victim tried to offer an excuse for why she could not see defendant, he would become angry and threaten to release the video. On August 4, 2019, defendant sent a video to four individuals. On appeal, defendant argued the trial court erred in excluding his proffered testimony that he believed the bondage image depicted the victim. The trial court held, and the New Hampshire Supreme Court concurred, the proffered evidence was irrelevant and therefore inadmissible. Judgment was affirmed. View "New Hampshire v. Lamontagne" on Justia Law
New Hampshire v. Tufano
Defendant David Tufano was convicted by jury for misdemeanor cruelty to animals. In 2019, Richard Roberge was working in his yard at his home in Somersworth. He heard a low, loud moaning noise coming from the defendant’s home across the street and went over to investigate. He saw the defendant with a hose in his hand spraying water into a plastic container. Inside the container was a “Havahart Trap” with a cat in it. He told the defendant to take the trap out of the bucket and open the trap, which the defendant did. The cat then ran off. Roberge did not immediately report the incident to police, but did so later, after other neighbors told him he should. Specifically, after his neighbor Sharon Barry told him about a prior incident in which defendant had placed a trap on his property, Roberge decided to contact the police. At trial, defendant objected to the trial court’s admission of any of Barry’s statements made about his cat trapping. Defendant also filed a motion in limine to allow him to impeach Barry with a prior conviction. The New Hampshire Supreme Court determined the trial court’s denial of defendant’s motion was an abuse of discretion. “While it was undisputed that the defendant sprayed the trapped cat inside a container, we cannot say that those facts alone ‘clearly constitute mistreatment of the cat that grossly deviates from what a reasonable person would do in the same situation.’” Because the erroneously-admitted evidence of prior cat trapping could have influenced the jury to view the defendant as a person who was “hostile toward cats” and likely to abuse or mistreat one, it could have led the jury to credit Roberge’s testimony over the defendant’s and to convict him of the charged offense. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "New Hampshire v. Tufano" on Justia Law
Petition of Smart
Petitioner Pamela Smart petitioned the New Hampshire Supreme Court to issue a writ of mandamus to order the Governor and Executive Council to reconsider whether to grant a hearing on the substance of her Petition for Commutation. Petitioner was serving a life-without-parole sentence for a conviction as an accomplice for first-degree murder. Petitioner submitted a Petition for Commutation, which requested a hearing before the Executive Council. She asked that her sentence be modified to eliminate the “without the possibility of parole” condition, and commuted to time served. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded petitioner’s challenge to the executive branch’s discretionary exercise of its clemency power sought a ruling on a nonjusticiable question. Accordingly, the petition was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. View "Petition of Smart" on Justia Law