Justia New Hampshire Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Juvenile Law
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In August 2019, the State of New Hampshire filed three juvenile delinquency petitions against Respondent in the family division, charging him with one count of pattern aggravated felonious sexual assault (AFSA), one count of felonious sexual assault, and one count of indecent exposure. The AFSA petition alleged that the acts comprising the pattern offense occurred on four specific dates: June 22, 2018; August 24, 2018; September 15, 2018; and May 27, 2019. When the petitions were filed, the alleged victim was six years old and Respondent was seventeen years old. Respondent turned eighteen in November 2019 and at the time of this appeal was twenty years old. After filing the petitions, the State, pursuant to RSA 169-B:24, petitioned to certify Respondent as an adult and transfer the case to superior court. This petition was denied and the New Hampshire Supreme Court accepted the State’s Rule 11 petition to determine whether the superior court erred in denying the State’s petition to certify Respondent as an adult. Finding the superior court so erred, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded. View "Petition of State of New Hampshire" on Justia Law

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A New Hampshire circuit court issued an adjudicatory order finding that G.B., a minor, had been neglected, but that respondents, G/B/'s adoptive parents, were not at fault for the neglect. Subsequently, the court issued a dispositional order awarding legal custody of G.B. to the New Hampshire Division for Children, Youth and Families (DCYF) and requiring DCYF to seek placement for G.B. in a residential treatment facility. DCYF appealed both orders, and G.B.’s guardian ad litem (GAL), Court Appointed Special Advocates of New Hampshire (CASA), joined in appealing the dispositional order. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded the circuit court erred as a matter of law when it ruled that the respondents did not neglect G.B. The Court further concluded that, although the circuit court did not err by ruling G.B. a neglected child and ordering G.B.’s placement in a residential treatment facility, it failed to identify legally permissible primary and concurrent case plans in its dispositional order. Accordingly, judgment was affirmed in part, reversed in part, vacated in part, and remanded. View "In re G.B." on Justia Law

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Juvenile J.S. appealed a circuit court’s finding of delinquency based on petitions alleging criminal mischief, simple assault and attempted simple assault. The petitions were filed after a series of events in September 2020 at the Mount Prospect Academy, a non-secure detention facility whose students are placed there due to behavioral issues. At the close of the State’s case at the adjudicatory hearing, the court granted the juvenile’s motion to dismiss one of the petitions for insufficiency of evidence, and denied his motions to dismiss the remaining petitions for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The latter motions argued that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because the State failed to comply with RSA 169- B:6, III and IV. On appeal, the juvenile argued the trial court “erred as a matter of law in determining that, on the undisputed facts in the record here, Mount Prospect Academy is not a school.” Accordingly, he contended the court erred by failing to dismiss the delinquency petitions. The New Hampshire Supreme Court upheld the trial court’s determination on the facts presented in this case, that Mount Prospect was not a “school” for purposes of RSA 169-B:6, III and IV. Accordingly, the Court upheld the trial court’s denial of the motions to dismiss and affirm the finding of delinquency. View "In re J.S." on Justia Law

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Defendant Eduardo Lopez, Jr. committed murder at age 17. Following his conviction, defendant received a statutorily-mandated sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. In 2012, the United States Supreme Court issued Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), ruling that “the Eighth Amendment forbids a sentencing scheme that mandates life in prison without possibility of parole for juvenile offenders.” Accordingly, in 2017, the trial court held a two-day resentencing hearing at which it heard testimony from the arresting police officer, several members of the murder victim’s family, an addiction psychiatrist, a forensic psychologist, several members of the defendant’s family, and the defendant. Following the hearing, taking into consideration the record before it, “the nature and circumstances of the underlying crime, the characteristics of the defendant, and the traditional sentencing factors,” the court imposed a sentence of 45 years to life. Defendant appealed that sentence, arguing 45-year-to-life constituted a de facto equivalent of of lifetime imprisonment in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The New Hampshire Supreme Court held the trial court did not err in determining that the 45-year-to-life sentence it imposed, under which defendant had an opportunity to be considered for parole when he reached 62 years of age, was not a de facto life sentence under the Eighth Amendment to the Federal Constitution. Accordingly, the sentence was affirmed. View "New Hampshire v. Lopez, Jr." on Justia Law

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The State of New Hampshire filed a petition for original jurisdiction seeking review of a circuit court order denying a request by the Office of the Attorney General (AGO) to release records underlying its investigation into an incident involving minors. According to the AGO, in 2017, there was an incident involving several minors in Claremont, New Hampshire. The AGO, the United States Attorney’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Claremont Police Department jointly investigated the incident. Subsequently, the Sullivan County Attorney filed delinquency petitions in the circuit court against one of the juveniles. The AGO asserted that the evidence obtained during the investigation was not confidential under RSA 169-B:35 but, even if it were, “significant policy considerations” allowed disclosure as long as the juvenile’s identity was protected. Following a hearing, the trial court rejected the AGO’s argument that RSA chapter 169-B did not apply to the AGO’s investigatory records. The court stated that “RSA 169-B:35 provides that all case records relative to delinquencies are confidential. Publication of information concerning a juvenile case is strictly prohibited with few legislatively enacted exceptions. None of those exceptions apply in this case.” The New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the circuit court’s ruling that the records were confidential under RSA 169-B:35 (Supp. 2018). View "Petition of the State of New Hampshire" on Justia Law

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Sixteen-year-old E.G. was petitioned as a delinquent for having committed the offenses of falsifying physical evidence, and possession of drugs. The petitions also alleged that E.G.’s case had been screened and deemed inappropriate for diversion because E.G. was “being petitioned as a delinquent for a felony level charge, and has several previous police contacts where he was involved in disturbances, criminal mischief and reckless conduct.” E.G. filed a motion to suppress, among other things, “all evidence obtained in violation of [his] right against self-incrimination.” Specifically, he contended that he had been subjected to custodial interrogation by police without having been informed of his rights in accordance with Miranda and New Hampshire v. Benoit, 126 N.H. 6 (1985). The trial court denied the motion. Considering the totality of the circumstances of the encounter, the New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded a reasonable juvenile in E.G.’s position would not have believed himself to be in custody, and therefore, that E.G. was not in custody for Miranda purposes when he made the incriminating statements to the officer. View "In re E.G." on Justia Law

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B.C. (a juvenile) was fourteen years of age when she was arrested for shoplifting merchandise from "Claire's," a discount jewelry store in the Rockingham Mall. She was transported, in handcuffs, to the Salem Police station. The arresting officer telephoned the juvenile's mother to pick her up. While in the booking room, the juvenile asked if she could use the bathroom. An officer allowed her to use the bathroom in one of the holding cells. Another officer observed her via a closed circuit monitor in the supervisor's office flush the toilet. The arresting officer asked the juvenile "what she had flushed down the toilet." The juvenile told the arresting officer "that it was a necklace that she had taken and . . . had concealed in her pants." The officer did not inform the juvenile of her Miranda rights before questioning her or at any other time. The juvenile remained at the police station until her mother picked her up. After she admitted to flushing the necklace down the toilet, the juvenile was charged with falsifying evidence. After a hearing in August 2011, she was found delinquent. During the merits hearing, she moved to suppress her admission on the ground that it was the product of custodial interrogation and that she was not advised of her Miranda rights before making it. The court denied her motion, and the juvenile appealed. The State appealed the circuit court's grant of the juvenile's motion to suppress. But finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "In re B.C. " on Justia Law

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Juvenile Trevor G. was arraigned on a delinquency petition alleging he had endangered the welfare of a minor. He moved to dismiss the petition because none of the State's witnesses against him were present, and therefore the State could not proceed with its case. The State acknowledged none of its witnesses were present and did not object to the motion, but requested leave to file for reconsideration if it learned there was a good reason why its witnesses did not show. The case was dismissed for lack of prosecution, and the State did not move for reconsideration. A few months later, the State refiled its petition. Trevor moved to dismiss, arguing that the adjudicatory hearing was outside the statutory time limit. The court again held a hearing, and again the witnesses did not show. The Court denied Trevor's motion, finding that because Trevor initiated the dismissal, the State was not barred from re-filing. The Supreme Court granted the trial court's request for interlocutory appeal. The issue before the Court was whether the trial court erred in its conclusion that the statutory time limits for the State to re-file its delinquency petition for lack of prosecution was not violated because the dismissal was initiated by the juvenile. The Supreme Court concluded that the trial court erred in its interpretation, and reversed the order denying Trevor's motion to dismiss. View "In re Trevor G." on Justia Law

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"Cody C." (a juvenile) challenged the Sixth Circuit Court's jurisdiction over him until his eighteenth birthday. Cody had been adjudicated delinquent on several occaisons; shortly before his seventeenth birthday, the State moved to extend the court's jurisdiction until his eighteenth birthday. After review, the Supreme Court upheld the circuit court's retention of jurisdiction. View "In re Cody C." on Justia Law

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Anthony F. appealed an order by the Derry District Court that denied his motion to suppress evidence that supported a child delinquency petition against him. The juvenile was stopped by school officials as he was leaving campus one morning in 2008. He refused to return, stating he did not feel well. Assistant principals escorted him back to the school where he was searched. One assistant principal asked the juvenile if he had "anything on [him] that [he] shouldn’t have on school property." The juvenile eventually handed over a small bag of marijuana that he retrieved from inside his sock. Subsequently, a delinquency petition was filed. The juvenile moved to suppress the marijuana evidence, arguing that the search was unconstitutional under the New Hampshire and Federal Constitutions. The State countered that there was no search under the law, but even if a search occurred, it was constitutionally valid. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that the facts of this case did not support a finding of reasonable grounds for suspecting that a search of this juvenile would turn up contraband. The assistant principals searched the juvenile because it was school policy to search all students who return to school after leaving an assigned area. The record reveals, however, that the juvenile was leaving the school, not returning. It was school officials who forced his return. The Court held that the search was "suspicionless" and as such, illegal. The Court reversed the decision in this case and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "In re Anthony F. " on Justia Law