Harden Law Offices

104 Main Street, Lancaster, NH 03584 603.788.2080
2 Cottage Street, Littleton, NH 03561 603.444.2084
199 Heater Road, Lebanon, NH 03766 603.448.3737

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Most Powerful Person In NH Criminal Justice System? County Attorney

Jeanne Hruska police director of the ACLU-NH recently published an opinion in the Concord Monitor about the importance of a county attorney in NH, entitled Why County Attorney Races are a Big Deal.  As election day approaches most folks will only have one candidate to select, but think about how much power that person will have over lives of literally all citizens in NH.  It is an awesome and almost omnipotent power that must always be viewed by a single person seeking justice.

As a defense lawyer for over 25 years. I have witnessed several county attorney's offices go through changes over the years.  It has always amazed me how one person can influence the lives of so many.  I look forward to a change in Grafton County and wish for a more progressive approach to justice that encompasses treatment and counseling.  In Coos County there will be an incumbent elected but again the power of that elected official is amazing over the course of thousands of lives.

The power of a prosecutor to decide to: bring a case, reduce it, drop it or pursue it to the fullest affects victims, defendants, witnesses and everyone connected to the involved.  The county attorney is the highest law enforcement authority in each county and decides whether to charge felonies.

This is a moment to reflect on our county attorney and to make sure that as gatekeepers of the criminal justice system that they are grounded,  accountable and reasonable.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Oh Canada, DWI Laws Prohibit Americans Entering Canada with History of DWI

A DWI record or other serious offense can keep you barred from Canada. Having a DWI on your record can get you banned from visiting Canada.  Drunken driving is considered an indictable offense in Canada.  If you have a DWI you will have to wait at least five years and complete lengthy paperwork to be considered for admission.  It is presumed that you are rehabilitated after ten years.

One of the collateral consequence of a DWI conviction is that Canada will bar entry and if you are found in Canada with a DWI or many other offenses you can be charged with a crime in Canada.  There are also many interpretations by the Canadian Border Agents that would prohibit a reckless driving, negligent driving or other lesser offenses.

As Canada prepares to enact Canada's Cannabis Act, which legalizes recreational marijuana. This law will take effect in October. There is a growing concern that the enforcement of this bar against DWI offenders will have a larger impact.  Canada is going to crack down even harder on DWI offenders.

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If you have business or vacation plans to go to Canada it is important to understand that the law is about to become even more strict.  If you have entry concerns it is best to contact an immigration attorney.  Sentencing-Severity-Surge-Dui-Conviction is an arctile written by Attorney Marisa Feils, of Montreal, QC who recently spoke at a NHACDL seminar.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Make a Difference today!

As many of you know I grew up in WNY and am a life long Bills fan.  This causes some grief to me as I live in Northern NH during the Brady era.  However, everyone will feel the power of Jim Kelly's emotional, humbling and loving tribute to others as he accepted the Jimmy V award.  This is Kelly tough at its best.  Try not to cry.

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Friday, May 4, 2018



Plymouth, NH – The New Hampshire Circuit Court has ruled that the border patrol checkpoint that occurred in August 2017 on Interstate 93 in Woodstock, New Hampshire was “unconstitutional under both State and federal law.”  Woodstock is a small town (population 1,374) in the White Mountains—a popular tourist attraction—that is approximately 90 driving miles from the Canadian border. 

The American Civil Liberties Union of New Hampshire (“ACLU-NH”) challenged the constitutionality of this border patrol checkpoint on behalf of 16 individuals.  These 16 individuals were travelling in New Hampshire lawfully and were seized and searched during this checkpoint without any suspicion that they had committed a crime.  The State ultimately charged these individuals with allegedly possessing small amounts of drugs for personal use.  These 16 individuals are being represented by Gilles Bissonnette (Legal Director for the ACLU-NH), Professor Buzz Scherr from UNH School of Law, and defense attorney Mark Sisti. 

During this border patrol checkpoint, the Woodstock Police Department (“WPD”) worked in concert with federal United States Customs and Border Protection (“CBP”) to circumvent the independent protections provided by the New Hampshire Constitution against dog-sniff searches in the absence of a warrant or reasonable suspicion.  Specifically, CBP agents used dog-sniff searches in situations where New Hampshire law enforcement would have been barred from conducting similar searches. The CBP then turned over to the WPD resulting evidence from these federal searches for state drug prosecutions. 

The Circuit Court ruled that the “evidence was seized in violation of the constitutional rights recognized” under the New Hampshire Constitution.  As the Court explained, “given that the defendants in this matter are facing prosecution in the State court for violations of State laws, the constitutional protections of the New Hampshire Constitution should apply.”  The Court added: “[T]he inadmissibility of the evidence does not change based on the fact that it was seized by federal officers and then handed over to the State.”  Indeed, according to the Court, CPB and the WPD “were working in collaboration with each other with the understanding that the WPD would take possession of any drugs seized below the federal guidelines for prosecution in federal court and bring charges in this [state] court based on that evidence.” 

The Court also separately ruled that this border patrol checkpoint, given the facts of this case, violated the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures.  Under the Fourth Amendment, a border patrol checkpoint is unconstitutional if its primary purpose is to detect drugs.  The Court concluded that, based on the evidence presented, “it is patently clear that the primary purpose of WPD being present at the checkpoint in August [was] to accept the illegal drugs confiscated by the CBP searches in order to prosecute the defendants on state drug charges.”  The Court added: “[T]he State and federal authorities were absolutely working in collaboration with each other.”  Thus, the Court ruled, “while the stated purpose of the checkpoints in this matter was screening for immigration violations, the primary purpose of the action was detection and seizure of drugs.”

“This decision is a victory for civil liberties.  As the Court ruled, these checkpoints flagrantly violated the New Hampshire Constitution and the Fourth Amendment,” said Gilles Bissonnette, the Legal Director for the ACLU-NH and co-counsel on the case.  “CPB and the WPD searched and seized hundreds, if not thousands, of the individuals during the summer tourist season without any reason to believe that these individuals had committed a crime.  This is not how a free society works.”

“The New Hampshire and Federal Constitutions do not allow law enforcement to engage in a fishing expedition for criminal activity.  Yet this is precisely what happened here,” said Buzz Scherr, a professor of law from UNH School of Law and co-counsel on the case. 

“The checkpoints ignored the presumption of innocence and assumed that all those passing through were guilty of criminal activity.  This ‘ends justifies the means’ approach is precisely what the New Hampshire and Federal Constitutions have rejected since their inception,” said Mark Sisti, who was counsel on the case.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Bad science puts innocent people in jail — and keeps them there

As a criminal defense lawyer for 25 years, I have seen many changes in how science interacts with the law.  This story by the Washington Post gives a good summary of how bad science and pseudo science have led to wrongful convictions and incarcerations.

It is important that if you are charged with a crime that you have a lawyer that is able to demand that the science be reliable, accurate and precise.  It is not enough to believe what the so called expert says, rather it is the duty of the defense lawyer to demand to see the actual data to test the claims. 

I take pride in making sure that any scientific claim be backed up by raw data that is testable, and able to be verified.  There is an old saying "In God We Trust, in all others we demand proof."  That goes double for any scientific claims.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Opioid Crisis in NH get National Attention

The New York Times has done a story about the "Perfect Storm" in New Hampshire fueling an Opioid Crisis on January 21, 2018.  The New York Times also did a personal story about a NH family from Pembroke and how they are dealing with addiction to pain killers, heroin and fentanyl. 

It is a real heart breaker to have people's lives ruined by an overdose death. 1 Son, 4 Overdoes, 6 Hours is another New York Times story pointing out the turmoil and trouble addicts cause in a family.  The emotional, physical and economic impact is impossible to assess both individually and as a society.  Patrick and his family will have the rest of their lives to try to piece together a future and he is lucky to have parents and supports to help in recovery.

It is important to know that without services and treatment addiction is virtually impossible to overcome.  We as parents, citizens and people need to help each other to prevent losing more people to addiction.  

As a defense lawyer who works with people charged with possession and intent to distribute drugs it is clear to me that incarceration is a failed policy.  Coos County has recently indicated that they will be starting a Drug Court with the hope of diversion from incarceration.  The only possible way out of addiction is treatment, family and community support.  The most successful addicts are the ones who have learned that they are valued and important.

I urge everyone who can to support increased spending on counseling, treatment and education programs. You can also help by donating financial support to local charities or working with groups like the North Country Health Consortium.  If you or a family member are struggling with addiction in Coos or Northerrn Grafton County get help  go to meetings, call to get up counseling and get treatment.