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In New Hampshire, What Crimes Are Classified as Domestic Violence Offenses?

Interviewer: What crimes are considered domestic violence offenses?

Domestic Violence Is an Offense Committed by One Partner or Family member against Another Family member or Partner

David: Domestic violence basically, would be any criminal offense that’s committed by a significant other, if you will, against the other significant other.

What I just described to you is basically the state statute version that speaks in terms of intimate partners being involved in domestic violence.

The State Statutes in New Hampshire Are More Expansive Than Are the Federal Statutes

The federal statutes have a more precise definition of domestic violence, which is not as expansive as the state definition. The state definition on domestic violence includes individuals that are intimate partners, as well as family members.

Interviewer: So domestic violence is not just a man hitting a woman. It can also extend to a female-on-male violence or other relationships such as roommates, siblings, parent-child, is that right?

David: Not roommates because they have to be individuals that are actually related. It would be mother-daughter, that type of relationship.

There Are Two Classifications of Domestic Violence Offenses and They Are Tried in Two Different Courts

Interviewer: As long as there is a family relationship that’s what domestic violence will fall under. In what court are domestic violence cases heard?

David: The domestic violence cases, there are two different types of domestic violence cases and they are heard in different courts. The criminal cases are heard in the first instance, in the District Court, which is local to where the events take place.

The criminal types of cases would be assault or criminal mischief or criminal threatening or criminal trespass or misdemeanor offenses, that are committed against an individual. They could be felonies, but basically, the great majority of them are misdemeanors which are heard in the District Court.

Domestic Violence Criminal Cases Are Heard in District Court; Domestic Violence Civil Cases Are Heard in the Family Division

The court system was restructured a couple of years ago so that all of the trial courts, except the Superior Court where jury trials happen, but all of the non-jury court trial cases are heard in the so-called Circuit Court. There’s a District Division. There’s a Probate Division and there’s a Family Division. Domestic violence criminal cases are heard in the District Division. Domestic violence civil cases are heard in the Family Division.

Interviewer: So there’s a clear difference on which court they’ll go to. If you and your spouse or girlfriend has an altercation, can someone call the police on you and if so, are you automatically arrested?

If the Police Are Called to a Scene Where Partners Are Arguing and There Is Evidence of a Crime, One Partner Will Be Arrested

David: Generally speaking, when people make 911 phone calls, the police will respond. People that make 911 phone calls and then hang them up, even without saying anything, the police respond. Occasionally, it will be someone that lives in the same apartment building or someone else that is aware of an event taking place that calls the police and the police respond.

Interviewer: When they arrive, even if no one has had physical contact with one another, can someone be arrested, anyway?

David: No, if the police arrive at a household and find that the parties are arguing, then there’s no evidence that a crime occurred. If there is evidence that a crime occurred and under domestic violence offenses are assault, criminal threatening, criminal mischief, criminal trespass, as well as harassment, sexual assault and interference with freedom.

If the police, while they are there develop probable cause that one person or the other committed the criminal offense, then they could arrest somebody.

There Are Various Levels of Domestic Violence Charges

Interviewer: Now how serious are domestic violence allegations? Will you be held without bond or will you be prevented from contacting your spouse or children?
How serious can a domestic violence allegation become?

A Domestic Violence Offense Can Be Charged as a Felony or Misdemeanor

David: There are various levels of domestic violence. If there was serious bodily injury, if a weapon were involved, then the case could be charged as a felony, which would be very serious and which would have significant bail might be required.

In New Hampshire, Penalties for Domestic Violence Offenses Can Include a Jail Sentence, Fines and Probation

If it is does not involve serious bodily injury, does not involve a gun or knife, then it’s more likely to be a misdemeanor, which would be in the District Court. Misdemeanor offenses in New Hampshire have a range of penalties from no jail time to a year in jail, a fine of up to $2000 fine, suspended sentences, probation, and a variety of other options.