Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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Defendant Owen Labrie appealed his conviction by jury on three counts of sexual assault, one count of endangering the welfare of a child, and one count of using computer services for a prohibited purpose. He challenged: (1) the sufficiency of the evidence to support his conviction under RSA 649-B:4, I(a); (2) the trial court’s decision not to allow certain cross-examination by the defendant of a State’s witness; and (3) the trial court’s failure to sua sponte correct statements made by the prosecutor in closing argument. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "New Hampshire v. Labrie" on Justia Law

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The State of New Hampshire appealed a superior court order granting defendant Shannon Glavan's motion to suppress evidence seized from her automobile. Defendant was discovered sleeping in the driver's seat in a gas station parking lot. The station had been closed since 11:00 PM; she was discovered at 1:45 AM. The officer that found defendant sleeping shone a light into the car and saw a "loaded syringe containing a clear, reddish liquid" by her leg. The officer believed the syringe to contain narcotics. The officer asked defendant to exit the car, not to touch the syringe to avoid being stuck by the needle. The syringe later tested positive for methamphetamine. Defendant was charged with possession of a controlled substance. In granting her motion to suppress, the trial court concluded there was no recognized automobile exception to the warrant requirement under the State Constitution, and the plain view doctrine did not authorize the officer's warrantless search of defendant’s vehicle. On the facts of this case, the New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded the defendant’s automobile was stopped in transit, and the trial court erred by granting the defendant’s motion to suppress. View "New Hampshire v. Glavan" on Justia Law

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Defendant Sean Stacey appealed his convictions on one felony count and one misdemeanor count of possession of a controlled drug. On appeal, he argued the Superior Court erred by denying his motion to suppress evidence of the drugs he was convicted of possessing. At issue was a warrantless search and seizure; police procured a warrant five days after the seizure, which defendant argued was an unreasonable delay such that police did not have probable cause to support his arrest. Finding this argument unavailing in light of New Hampshire caselaw precedent, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed defendant's convictions. View "New Hampshire v. Stacey" on Justia Law

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Defendant Jason Wilbur was the former stepfather of the alleged victim (child) in the case. In 2007, the child disclosed she had been sexually assaulted by defendant. Defendant was subsequently indicted on charges of aggravated felonious sexual assault (AFSA), but the State nol prossed the charges in April 2009. In 2010, defendant was re-indicted on: (1) one count of AFSA alleging a single act of digital penetration; (2) one count of AFSA alleging a pattern of digital penetration; (3) one count of AFSA alleging a single act of penile penetration; and (4) one count of AFSA alleging a pattern of penile penetration. In May 2011, a jury found defendant guilty on the two counts of AFSA alleging digital penetration, and acquitted him on the two counts of penile penetration. The New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the convictions on direct appeal. In June 2014, defendant moved for a new trial, which the trial court denied following an evidentiary hearing. This appeal followed; defendant alleged his trial counsel’s performance was constitutionally deficient in four respects: (1) failure to rebut the State’s characterization of the defendant’s statement to the police; (2) lack of preparation of the mother for her testimony; (3) introduction of evidence of a prior sexual assault committed against the child by another person without a reasonable strategy; and (4) failure to object to opinion testimony given by a child protective services (CPS) worker. Because the Supreme Court agreed with defendant with respect to claims (1) and (4), the Court found it unnecessary to examine claims (2) and (3). The matter was reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "New Hampshire v. Wilbur" on Justia Law

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The parents of O.D., B.D., and G.D. appealed a circuit court order terminating their parental rights over their children, on the ground that they failed to correct the conditions leading to a finding of neglect. They argued the circuit court violated their due process rights by terminating their parental rights without requiring the New Hampshire Division for Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) to file new abuse or neglect petitions against them after the court issued an ex parte order removing the children from their home during ongoing neglect proceedings and by failing to appoint counsel for them during the neglect proceedings. Finding no abuse of discretion or other reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "In re O.D." on Justia Law

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Petitioner Lisa Censabella appealed a superior court’s dismissal of her petition for relief against Hillsborough County Attorney Dennis Hogan under the Right-to-Know Law. Petitioner argued the trial court erred in ruling that she was not a “person aggrieved” under RSA 91-A:7 (2013) and, therefore, lacked standing to pursue this action. In March 2017, petitioner, by and through her attorney, filed a petition seeking, among other things, to enjoin respondent from further violations of the Right-to-Know Law. Petitioner claimed to be a person aggrieved, under RSA 91-A:7, by respondent’s alleged violations of RSA chapter 91-A occurring between December 28, 2015 and November 29, 2016. The petition alleged Attorney Tony Soltani filed a Right-to-Know Law request on her behalf with respondent seeking information regarding another individual, but that the response to the request and to follow-up requests made by Soltani over the ensuing eleven months was late and incomplete. At no time during the exchange did Soltani reveal that petitioner was his client for the purpose of the request, nor did respondent inquire for whom the requests were being made. The first time petitioner’s name was revealed was in the petition filed in the superior court. Respondent moved to dismiss, asserting that, because petitioner was not identified directly or indirectly in any of the requests made by Soltani, she lacked standing to bring the petition. The trial court granted the motion. Respondent argued the petitioner was not a “person aggrieved” because she “never directly requested inspection of government records, nor was she ever identified as a citizen upon whose behalf a request was made.” The New Hampshire Supreme Court discerned no such requirements in the Right-to-Know Law, and reversed the superior court’s judgment. View "Censabella v. Hillsborough County Attorney" on Justia Law

Posted in: Constitutional Law

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The State appealed a superior court order granting defendant Foad Afshar a new trial following his convictions on one count of simple assault, two counts of unlawful mental health practice, and one count of aggravated felonious sexual assault. On appeal, the State argued the trial court unsustainably exercised its discretion when, during a post-verdict hearing on the defendant’s motion for a new trial, it failed to apply the proper legal analysis in evaluating the potential biases of two jurors. Finding no such error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "New Hampshire v. Afshar" on Justia Law

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In 1985, petitioner Edward White was convicted in Massachusetts on two counts of indecent assault and battery arising from allegations that he sexually assaulted an eight-year-old female. He served three years in prison and then was paroled. At the evidentiary hearing, he represented that, during his parole, he successfully completed a sex offender treatment program. In January 1994, as a New Hampshire resident, the petitioner became subject to lifetime registration as a sex offender for his Massachusetts convictions. Following an evidentiary hearing on the merits, petitioner appealed a superior court order denying his petition to be relieved of the obligation to register as a sex offender in New Hampshire. Finding that the superior court properly applied the pertinent New Hampshire statute mandating petitioner's registration, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the order. View "White v. New Hampshire" on Justia Law

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Following an evidentiary hearing on the merits, petitioner Edward White appealed a trial court order denying his petition to be relieved of the obligation to register as a sex offender in New Hampshire. In January 1994, as a New Hampshire resident, petitioner became subject to lifetime registration as a sex offender for his Massachusetts convictions. Because of constitutional limitations, a Tier III offender, like petitioner, whose convictions pre-dated the establishment of the sex offender registry, may be subject to the registration requirement “only if he is promptly given an opportunity for either a court hearing, or an administrative hearing subject to judicial review, at which he is permitted to demonstrate that he no longer poses a risk sufficient to justify continued registration.” An assessment of petitioner was conducted, with findings that petitioner was then "a minimal risk to reoffend and therefore does not meet criteria for continued listing on the Sex Offender Registry." Following the evidentiary hearing, the trial court concluded that the petitioner failed to meet his burden of proof he was no longer a danger to the public and no longer posed a risk sufficient to justify continued registration. The New Hampshire Supreme Court determined the record submitted on appeal established an objective basis sufficient to sustain the trial court's denial of petitioner's petition, and therefore upheld its decision. View "White v. New Hampshire" on Justia Law

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Defendant Daniel Allain appealed a superior court order denying his request for pretrial confinement credit toward a suspended sentence imposed for violating a good behavior condition. Defendant was arrested on October 10, 2015 for a burglary that took place August 31, 2015. Unable to post bail, he remained incarcerated until trial. In February 2016, the State obtained eight indictments against him relating to burglaries and thefts that took place during the late summer of 2015, including the August 31 burglary. On July 8, 2016, the State moved to impose defendant’s 2011 suspended sentence because he violated the good behavior condition by committing the August 31 burglary. On August 15, 2016, the State entered a nolle prosequi on the charge involving the August 31, 2015 burglary. On appeal, defendant argued the trial court erred by denying him “presentence confinement credit beginning October 10, 2015.” He contended that had he posted bail on October 10, 2015, he would serve a total of three to six years of the 2011 sentence, but “[b]ecause he is indigent and the court denied credit, he will serve three years, 332 days to six years, 332 days.” Requiring him to serve more time because of his indigency, he argues, “involves precisely the discrimination” the presentence confinement credit statutes seek to prohibit. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concurred with defendant's argument and reversed the trial court's order's denying his request for pretrial confinement credit. The case was remanded for that court to grant pretrial credit toward defendant's sentence. View "New Hampshire v. Allain" on Justia Law