The Seacoast of New Hampshire is a popular vacation spot, and getting arrested or cited can ruin a vacation quicker than rainy weather.
Often, people make the mistake of seeking legal counsel from their home state or country, think the way a case is “handled at home” is the same way it will he handled in New Hampshire or they choose to ignore it in hopes it will just go away. All of these approaches are mistakes which can have severe and unintended consequences.
States like Maine and Massachusetts, and countries such as Canada, may consider the minor possession of marijuana a civil infraction. In New Hampshire it is a crime and a conviction will leave you with a criminal record regardless of how your home jurisdiction would characterize it. Likewise, a minor ticket in New Hampshire may result in a small fine but could result in a license loss in your home jurisdiction. In short, it is a significant mistake to assume New Hampshire consequences are the same as what you are used to at home. If you are arrested on vacation, a conversation with a local criminal defense attorney is a necessary step in understanding your options.
Depending on the court and charge, it is possible to resolve a case without the client ever having to incur the cost of coming back to New Hampshire to attend a court hearing.
In short, consultation with a criminal defense lawyer with knowledge of the local courts, law enforcement and the impact a conviction may have back home is critical in understanding your options. I have been practicing criminal defense in the seacoast of New Hampshire for 20 years, I can help you understand your situation, your options and how best to put this unpleasant memory behind you.
An arrest in NH has consequences in your home state.
_An arrest in New Hampshire won't just go away because you do not return to the state. If you miss a court date, it is likely a warrant will issue for your arrest, even for a “minor offense”. This warrant never goes away, and when you are pulled over for any reason back home, try to get on a plane or cross the border, you risk being taken into custody. Generally speaking what you got arrested for does not show up on the officer’s computer so you risk being taken into custody or denied entry even if the offense itself is minor.
A few examples of differences in the way cases are handled in New Hampshire and how it would impact you at home:
Driving while intoxicated is also a criminal offense and, in all but two states, a conviction and license loss will eventually be reported in your home jurisdiction. Ordinarily that license loss will be at least the same as imposed in New Hampshire and in certain circumstances may actually be doubled in your home jurisdiction! If you have a prior DWI/OUI charge in Massachusetts that has been “cwofed” or a court imposed alcohol program ordered, and are convicted of a DWI in New Hampshire you may suffer a 90 day license loss in New Hampshire and a 2 year license loss in Massachusetts! Do not assume anything until you speak to a lawyer with knowledge of the differences in how states treat certain convictions.
Finally, the consequences of a criminal conviction can have many far reaching, and unintended consequences including the denial to enter another country even if the offense is “minor”.
An arrest in NH has consequences if you are a Canadian Citizen.
_Although the Canadian Criminal Justice System and that of New Hampshire originate from the same English roots, there are significant differences.
In Canada, criminal law is federal jurisdiction - so the same law applies throughout the country, whereas in the United States it is up to individual states – examples of this include the criminalization of marijuana, the treatment of alcohol related offenses, the availability of the Death Penalty etc. That is why your friend’s arrest in Vermont, Maine or Massachusetts tells you nothing about how your arrest in New Hampshire will be treated.
In Canada there is a three tier system of offenses, summary conviction offenses, indictable offenses or hybrid offenses that does not exist in the United States. We do have violations, misdemeanors and felonies but they seldom equate to the Canadian system. For example, the summary offenses which can include up to 6 months in jail in Canada would be considered a Class “A” misdemeanor in New Hampshire punishable by up to a year in jail.
The ability to get a “Pardon” so that your criminal record will be removed from the Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) is not available in New Hampshire. In certain circumstances a New Hampshire conviction can be “expunged and/or annulled” which in many ways is better than a Canadian “Pardon”.
In the age of Homeland Security and the new emphasis on “secure borders” non-U.S. citizens with a criminal record seeking entrance into the United States can be denied a visa or entry regardless of how petty the offense was or how long ago it occurred.
For Canadian citizens avoiding a criminal record is critical if you want to avoid the need to obtain a waiver to enter the United States again. To understand these processes click HERE.
Avoiding a criminal conviction, or how that conviction is characterized, can make a significant difference in determining if re-entry will be allowed. click HERE