Interviewer: If someone has a simple marijuana case, what are some things that might help their case in that scenario?
Some Charges May Be Classified as a Motor Vehicle Offense
David Horan: If the person were driving a car at the time and got stopped for some reason, the government could charge that person with transportation of marijuana. This would carry a loss of license and be a motor vehicle offense with a loss of license and a fine.
Some Cases Can Be Resolved by Medical Evaluation and Treatment
But for your basic “good person” experimenting with drugs and getting arrested for the first time in possession with no prior criminal record, many prosecutors and judges are willing to enter into an agreement. The client would get an evaluation to see if they have a problem with drugs or alcohol and commit themselves before the evaluation to do what the person doing the evaluation recommends as treatment.
The cases can be resolved with some community service commitment. With respect to the students that get arrested or possession, where they’re looking at losing their student aid for a year, agreements can be worked out with many of the prosecutors along the lines I just described.
That’s the approach that one takes with respect to many of the cases and obviously the first question of course is whether or not we could actually beat the case. A dismissal of charges might be possible either because of some suppression issue or because of the absence of proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the drug was actually in the possession of the person accused.
How Long May It Take to Resolve a Drug-Related Case?
Interviewer: How long do drug-related cases take to resolve?
David Horan: A person is arrested for a misdemeanor possession, let’s say on January 2nd. They would be presumably released on bail and be assigned an arraignment date two or three weeks out. If they didn’t make bail, they’d be brought to court the very next day for arraignment. With respect to the case at that point, most courts schedule them for pretrial conferences which would be another three weeks out.
Pretrial Negotiations Can Expedite the Resolution of a Drug-Related Case
At the pretrial conference, as their attorney I could lobby the police and/or prosecutor to work out some kind of understanding to resolve the case at the pretrial conference. If that transpires, the case is over at that point basically six weeks out.
If no agreement is reached and if there are legal issues that we’re going to ask the judge to resolve, we take more time. It can be about 10 weeks. Basically, a person that is not in jail can get their case resolved relatively quickly. That’s with respect to misdemeanor offenses.
With more serious cases, the time frame is somewhat longer because the felony case can’t go forward until the case gets presented to a grand jury. The prosecutors never go forward with indicting people until they get a lab report. If the lab has a backlog, the indictment might come two months after the fact.
More Serious Offenses May Take 6 Months to Resolve
So it might take six months to resolve a case in Superior Court. It might take a month and a half to two and a half months in District Court to resolve.
New Hampshire’s Diversion Programs for Drug-Related Offenses
Interviewer: What diversion programs does New Hampshire have for drug-related offenses?
David Horan: Rockingham County has a Rockingham County diversion plan. Concord District Court has the fast program. Various courts have different types of programs which have been designed to treat people for the drug issue as opposed to prosecuting punished people for the drug arrest. In many instances, the best approach I could take for the client is to try to get them into one of those programs, especially when the merits of the case are bad enough to likely result in a conviction. Those cases end up with the client not being convicted. It helps them in the long run with respect to not becoming a convicted criminal.