- How strict of a state is New Hampshire for drug crimes?
- What’s the difference between a state drug crime and a federal drug crime?
- What are the most common drug charges in New Hampshire?
- Do I have a chance to fight a drug charge in New Hampshire?
How strict of a state is New Hampshire for drug crimes?
Gottesman and Hollis has only ever practiced in New Hampshire. However, we’ve had come from all different parts of the country. We often hear our clients tell us they “Came on vacation, left on probation.” For example, there are cases we’ve had where people have gotten very, very severe sentences for drug crimes in New Hampshire, that in other states, such as the state to the south of us, may not have resulted in a penalty anywhere near as harsh. The reality is that, as the opioid epidemic grows and continues to take people, the laws are getting stricter, the police action is getting more aggressive, and the court sentences are getting higher. That’s starting from a baseline of pretty high sentences to begin with.
If you are facing a drug charge, even if it’s something as simple as a straight possession, it is definitely worth your time and money to contact an attorney to help you navigate what is becoming a very, very aggressive court system, looking to punish people for possession of drugs.
What’s the difference between a state drug crime and a federal drug crime?
There’s no one single difference. It’s basically, which agency decides to prosecute your cases. There are rules and guidelines that exist that state prosecutors follow to refer cases to the federal system. That’s really what’s going to determine whether it’s a state or federal crime. Generally, the more you have, the more likely it is that your case is going to go federal. Other than that general rule, there’s no hard and fast reasons for it to go to the Federal Courts or the local courts.
If you do go to the Federal Courts, one of the things that a person faces in Federal Court that they don’t have in State Court is the federal sentencing guidelines. While they’re only guidelines, they are very rarely departed from. The penalties in the federal system can get very large very fast, because they have a lot of things that are what are called sentence enhancers. They basically say, “If you committed X crime, and you have one of these other criteria, one of these other factors, your sentence gets much larger, or much, much larger.” Obviously, it depends on the charge, and it depends on the sentencing enhancing factor. The guidelines are very strictly followed, and they allow for lots of ways for a prosecutor to ask for a higher sentence, and they have very few ways for a judge to depart from that higher sentence.
In State Court, you can get just as big a penalty, you can go to jail for just as long, but there are no sentencing guidelines. In State Court, a lawyer’s work on sentencing can have a greater impact, because the judges aren’t as strictly constrained in State Court as they are in Federal Court. For example, if you have a case where it appears as though this person has enough drugs to be not just possessing them, but possessing them with the intent to go and sell them. In State Court, the general assumption is that’s worse than a straight possession. But you still have the ability to argue, even if there’s no question of guilt, as to what the person’s punishment would be. In Federal Court, you can do that, but the chances that it’s successful are much lower because of the federal sentencing guidelines.
What are the most common drug charges in New Hampshire?
If you’d had asked this question 10 years ago, there would have been no question, the number one drug in New Hampshire was marijuana. However, with the opioid crisis, it’s probably safe to say that marijuana’s probably no longer the majority of the charges. It’s probably a polarity of the charges, but if you have a drug charge in New Hampshire, and you had three guesses, and it’s either marijuana, heroin, or a prescription drug. You would get it right probably 90% of the time by guessing one of those three things.
The reality is that the opioid epidemic has changed the nature of criminal defense work in drug cases, because it has changed the crime, or the drugs that are being involved. When you had a marijuana charge 10 years ago, or even today, there is a certain social expectation, or social understanding that goes along with marijuana that does not exist for something like heroin. The idea that the average person has, in terms of what heroin is, is something that’s much scarier than the average person’s conception of what marijuana is and how it works.
Because of that, when you face a judge, or a prosecutor, or a jury, and you have one of these more serious drugs that are basically becoming much more common because of the opioid addiction, you need an attorney to help you place that drug in context. If you’re fighting the charges at trial, you need to have somebody that understands how to do that. That understands the law enforcement tactics that have basically been entirely rewritten in the face of the opioid crisis.
Do I have a chance to fight a drug charge in New Hampshire?
Yes. Drug charges in New Hampshire are subject to a lot of restrictions in how the police obtain evidence. This is because New Hampshire’s law is almost completely unique. New Jersey’s constitution has a strong emphasis on a right to privacy, and that right to privacy gives rise to a bunch of legal restrictions that do not exist in many other states. Oftentimes, drugs are seized from people in circumstances that give rise to legal defenses or motions to suppress. Many of those motions to suppress would not exist in another state. For example, New Hampshire, as said before, doesn’t have an automobile exception. That is a huge, huge help in defending a drug case. New Hampshire also doesn’t have a good faith exception, which the federal system and many other states do. That too is a huge help to fighting drug charges. If you have a drug case in New Hampshire, there are a lot of things that New Hampshire lawyers know, and deal with on a regular basis, that can help you defend that case.
The other thing is, as the treatment focused courts come online, things like drug court, mental health court, and veterans court, even if you are convicted, a lawyer who is aware of how those systems work can help you reduce the impact of that conviction. It won’t make it go away entirely, but it could make it a whole lot better for you, a whole lot more palatable going forward.
We really have a situation in which you have the ability to fight the charges on pre-trial litigation. An experienced lawyer knows how to fight the charges at trial, knows how to navigate the scientific tests that are performed on those drugs. Then an experienced defense lawyer knows how to argue sentencing, and knows how and when to tap into the treatment based courts that are springing up across the state.