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

Thursday, May 5, 2022

Video is Coming to NH State Police: Video helps Good Cops and Improves Confidence in Police


I was recently speaking with a NH State Trooper and learned that body worn cameras (BWC) and cruiser videos are going to be standard issue to all NH State Police in the next month.   This is great news for the police and the public.  It is long overdue and will mean that good police and good people will be able to have better justice.  See my earlier blogs about this issue.

I have been a defense lawyer for almost 30 years and the lack of video by NH State Police has been one of my most frequent concerns.  I have been upset about poor towns having video while the largest line item budge item, NH State police refused to purchase and use video.  I have raised this issue in hundreds of cases in District and Superior Court for years.

The use of video is good for building public confidence in police and trust among all people.  This reform is likely due to concerns about race based inequalities and racial bias in arrests, detentions and sentencing.

This change is seems to be the result of the recent recommendations 48 of them made by  NH Commission on Law Enforcement Accountability, Community and Transparency (LEACT Commission) and approved by the governor in the wake of the murder of George Floyd.  

As everyone knows stores,  gas stations, private homes, traffic lights, toll booths, most teenagers and almost all adults all have video at their disposal 24/7.  500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute worldwide, that is 30,000 hours of video uploaded every hour, 720,000 hours of video uploaded every day to YouTube.  This doesn't even include all the private videos from stores, businesses and homes.

NH State Police are the best funded and most common form of law enforcement throughout NH. see earlier posts on this blog. 

Good police have nothing to hide and welcome the video as it will show them to be doing their jobs properly and treating all people with respect.  It will also prevent police from having to defend themselves from false allegations of wrong doing.  I have witnessed allegations of physical and sexual abuse be lodged against police.  There are investigations conducted suspensions in place during the investigations and I firmly believe that video will reduce this issue and help prevent good police from having false claims made.

It also seems pretty obvious that there will be fewer disputes about what was said or done on the video as the words and acts of the police and people will be captured by the videos.   In cases in the past a trial sometimes comes down to the words an officer remembers or fails to remember.  However, with video footage of actual encounters with the police there will no longer be disputes about who said what and the response.  The police and the person interviewed will be captured on the video.

On the same day I learned that BWC and cruiser videos will be implemented statewide by NH State police I just happened to be in Littleton District Court with an aggravated DWI case set for trial.  The town that brought the aggravated DWI case already uses BWC.  In this aggravated DWI case my client was captured on video shortly after being pulled over, producing her license, speaking with the officer, exiting her vehicle, agreeing to FSTs, performing the officer's version of the FST.  

The officer testified markedly differently than the video showed and in fact the judge ruled that the video did not show the clues that the officer claimed as well as other inconsistencies.  After playing the video the judge granted my motion to suppress for lack of probable cause finding the police had no reasonable basis to arrest and detain my client.  This meant that because of video footage my client was found not guilty.  The court did not have to hear testimony from the phlebotomist, the lab analyst the defense experts and literally saved hours of court time.

On the human side the look of relief and happiness on my client's face was among the best feeling a defense lawyer gets.  This case literally had been going on for over a year, the lab results were disputed, there were many complicated issues and my client risked going to jail to have her day in court.  She did not believe she was impaired and in the end the video showed the court my client on the night in question and justice prevailed.  Thanks to the town police use of video.  

Video footage showed my client to speak normally, walk normally, have good balance, perform the FSTs very well.  The video evidence was so powerful that the judge literally dismissed a case that carried mandatory jail, fines and loss of license.  

It is reasonable to say that without the video the officer's testimony showed my client to be highly impaired based on alleged poor driving, poor performance on the FSTs and admissions.  However, the video showed my client's actual movements on the night of her arrest and the judge was able to make a decision based on evidence produced that showed her to be not guilty.

Video helps good cops and assists good people who have done nothing wrong by showing how they actually acted when encountering each other.  I am delighted to hear that the NH State Police are joining many of the small towns in NH already using video.  The use of video will also help improve people's confidence that the police are doing a good job and treating each other with respect and dignity. 

Friday, February 18, 2022

Annulment of Criminal Record in NH

Update on Annulment of Criminal Record in NH
NH Change on Annulment of Criminal Records, Extending time required for Annulment of Simple Assault DV Related to 10 Years.

NH has changed the law again on annulments creating a 10 year requirement of no offense in order to annul a crime of domestic violence under RSA 631:2-b.  

The intent of this change was to make is more difficult to annul a record of arrest for those who are convicted of domestic violence simple assault.  This will prevent citizen's convicted of DV simple assault from possessing firearms for 10 years after a conviction.

The remainder of the annulment statute still uses different standard if an arrest occurred prior to January 1, 2019 resulted in a finding of not guilty, dismissal or was not prosecuted, the Court may annul the arrest or record at its discretion.  

Similarly for offenses on or after January 1, 2019 resulting in not guilty findings, dismissal or those not prosecuted, an annulment shall be granted.

For those people whose arrests led to convictions, the law requires a person to remain conviction free for a specified period of time before they are eligible to annul the record of arrest and conviction. The time periods are the following:

1.      A violation with a conviction, one year, unless the underlying conviction was for an offense specified under the habitual offender law.

2.      For most class B misdemeanors, 2 years after the person has completed all the terms and conditions of the sentence.

3.      For most class A misdemeanors, excluding sexual assaults, 3 years. 

4.      For most class B felonies, excluding indecent exposure, lewdness or drug charges, 5 years. 

5.      For most class A felonies, except drug charges, 10 years. 

6.      For misdemeanor sexual assault under RSA 632-A:4, 10 years. 

7.      For felony indecent exposure or lewdness under RSA 645:1, II, 10 years. 

8.      For a class A misdemeanor or felony offense under RSA 318-B:26, II, 2 years.

If a petition for annulment is denied, no further petition shall be brought more frequently than every 3 years thereafter. 

Anyone who has been convicted of violent crime, felony obstruction of justice or any offense resulting in an extended term of imprisonment is prohibited from annulling their record. Violent crimes are defined as:  capital murder, first or second degree murder, manslaughter, class A felony negligent homicide under RSA 630, first degree assault under RSA 631:1, aggravated felonious sexual assault or felonious sexual assault under RSA 632-A,  kidnapping or criminal restraint under RSA 633, class A felony arson under RSA 634:1, robbery under RSA 636, incest under RSA 639:2, III, endangering the welfare of a child by solicitation under RSA 639:3, III, or any felonious child pornography offense under RSA 649-A.  

Those people seeking an annulment of their criminal record, may complete the application process by Petitioning for Annulment.  You can find a link for a Petition to Annul at the NH Court Website: https://www.courts.state.nh.us/forms/nhjb-2317-ds.pdf.  It is extremely important that the petitioner read over the form carefully and complete the application correctly.  If any error occurs, a person must wait 3 years before filing another petition.  

Often times, people will seek out an experienced criminal law attorney to review their convictions and process the petition for them.  There are fees associated with petitioning for annulment.  First, there is a court filing fee of $125 for each court where there is a conviction.  Upon filing, the NH Department of Corrections will be ordered to conduct an investigation with a records check and submit it to the court.  The NH Department of Corrections charges a fee of $100.  After the annulment has been granted, the Department of Safety charges $100 to effectuate the annulment by deleting the computer records.

If you are embarrassed by mistakes made when younger, you may want to seek an annulment of a criminal record. The annulment may allow you to travel to Canada, restore rights to possess firearms, coach or chaperone children.  An annulment prevents a person who made a mistake from being labeled for life. This law helps restore citizens to enjoy their full constitutional rights. 

Len Harden is a local criminal defense lawyer who has been practicing law for almost 30 years.  He has offices in Lancaster, Littleton and Lebanon and is frequently contacted by people looking to annul their records.  Harden will review each case to make sure a person qualifies and can assist you in completing the paperwork. You can reach him by calling 603-788-2080 or via his website www.LenHarden.com.

Friday, February 11, 2022

North Country Fun: Skiing/ Après Ski and Avoiding DWI

The White Mountains have fantastic ski areas with great terrain and views.  People come from all over New England and beyond to make turns, enjoy views, be outside and vacation.  The local ski areas include:  Loon, Cannon, Bretton Woods, Cranmore, King Pine, Black Mountain, Wild Cat, Attitash, and Waterville Valley.

My family and I enjoy skiing and living in the White Mountains.  As a DWI/ Criminal defense lawyer I have had many occasions to represent people who get arrested while on vacation or traveling in our area.  I know the area and am ready to defend against any allegations or charges.  I have defended skiers and riders routinely appearing in Plymouth, Littleton, Lancaster, Conway and Berlin District Courts to defend citizens accused of DWI among other crimes. 

Part of  a ski vacation includes having down time relaxing over food and drinks.  As you probably know each of these ski areas have bars and restaurants as well as nearby facilities to help travelers get refreshed.  There are many great options for après ski in northern NH.  There are no laws against skiing and drinking but as it is a dangerous sport and it is wise to be cautious and to be mindful so that you remain safe.  The laws about drinking après skiing are commonly referred to as DWI laws.

I am frequently asked "how much is too much?"  or "how long will a drink affect me?"   The answer is it depends, but  science and toxicology use an estimate that helps understand appropriate limits.  A 150 pound person should to be able to eliminate or process one 12 ounce 5% percent beer,  one 6 ounce 14% glass of wine or one ounce 40% alcohol drink per hour.   This amount and percent is determined to be a drink unit.  

In practical terms this formula means that it would take a 150 pound person about 3 drinks in an hour to obtain or be close to .08% blood alcohol content (BAC) which is the legal limit for impaired driving in NH.

So if a person weighs 200 pounds it that would mean it takes about 4 drinks and if they are 120 pounds it would be 2.5 drinks.  There are differences based on body mass, muscle content, gender and drinking experience these and other factors can adjust the amounts up and down.  Bear in mind the average safe number is that a 150 pound person will eliminate 1 drink per hour.

So the answer to how much is too much is a personal matter but it is wise be smart and think ahead.  As such it is always smart be be safe and have a designated driver or use a shuttle service such as provided in Lincoln, Woodstock when you enjoy après skiing.

Attorney Harden has practiced DWI/ DUI defense in the North Country for almost 300 years and is intimately familiar with the nuances of defending DWI and criminal cases.  If  you're in need of a DWI/ DUI  or criminal defense lawyer with years of experience and a history of winning cases in NH, contact Attorney Len Harden today.