Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in New Hampshire Supreme Court
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Defendant Kevin Butler was convicted after a bench trial on two counts of animal cruelty. One of defendant’s neighbors was leaving her apartment to run errands when she noticed a dog inside a parked Honda Civic. After 45 minutes to an hour, the neighbor returned and noticed that the dog remained in the vehicle. The dog appeared to be in distress and was “scratching at the windows and the door.” The temperature was greater than 90 degrees outside and the neighbor believed that the “dog shouldn’t have been in the car because it was that hot with all the windows . . . closed.” She was “afraid for the dog,” so she called the police. Animal Control responded to the call, opened the vehicle, and secured the dog. Defendant testified telling a responding officer that on the day the dog was taken into custody, he had “been out on some errands” and “[h]is arms were full[,] so [he] asked his 8-year-old son . . . to bring the dog in.” When the police asked him where his dog was, the defendant testified that he said “oh, sh*t” and asked his son where the dog was. When his son responded that he did not know, the defendant realized that the dog must still be in the car. On appeal, defendant claimed the evidence was insufficient to establish the requisite mens rea of criminal negligence for both charges. All other elements were uncontested. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed defendant's conviction. View "New Hampshire v. Butler" on Justia Law

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Defendant Timothy Verrill appealed a superior court order denying his motion to dismiss his pending indictments with prejudice after his unopposed motion for a mistrial had been granted. He contended the Double Jeopardy and Due Process Clauses of the State and Federal Constitutions prohibited his retrial because of the State’s discovery violations. A grand jury indicted defendant on two counts of first degree murder, two counts of second degree murder, and five counts of falsifying evidence. In the middle of trial and during the State’s case-in-chief, defense counsel informed the court that the State had not disclosed two emails sent to the New Hampshire State Police Major Crimes Unit (MCU) by a friend of a witness. Though the prosecutors informed the court and defense counsel that they had no prior knowledge of the emails, defendant moved to dismiss the indictments with prejudice based on the State’s failure to disclose the discovery before trial. Before the court issued an order, MCU initiated an audit of the investigation to ensure that all discovery was disclosed. The audit continued as the trial progressed, and additional undisclosed discovery was unearthed. Defendant then asked for a mistrial, and then filed a second motion to dismiss the charges pending against him. The New Hampshire Supreme Court upheld the trial court’s determination that the State and Federal Double Jeopardy and Due Process Clauses did not bar defendant’s retrial. The Supreme Court vacated the trial court's declination to make additional findings and remanded the case for the trial court to determine what remedies, if any, should have been imposed for the State's discovery violations. View "New Hampshire v. Verrill" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Devin Miles sought certiorari review of superior court decisions denying his motion to quash an indictment against him, his renewed motion to quash, his motion for interlocutory appeal, and his motion for findings of fact and rulings of law. In August 2019, the State filed three juvenile delinquency petitions against petitioner in the family division of the circuit court. One of the juvenile petitions charged the petitioner with a pattern of aggravated felonious sexual assault (AFSA). Petitioner argued the court erred by failing to quash the indictment because, in his view, the indictment was contrary to RSA 169-B:4, VII (Supp. 2021) and violated New Hampshire Rule of Criminal Procedure 20(a)(4) as well as his double jeopardy rights pursuant to the State and Federal Constitutions. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the superior court. View "Petition of Devin Miles" on Justia Law

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Defendant Brim Bell was convicted by jury on four class A felony counts of theft by deception. Defendant ran a business at several New Hampshire locations restoring primarily Volkswagen vehicles. Between January 1, 2011 and November 17, 2015, each of the victims, A.M., J.M., J.K., and J.T., hired defendant to restore a vehicle. During the time defendant had their vehicles, he repeatedly asked each of the victims to send him more money, ostensibly for parts or other expenses related to the restoration of their vehicles. Each victim made a series of payments to defendant, but none of the victims received a restored car back from defendant. Defendant testified to a series of events that negatively affected his business during 2010 and 2011 and increased his debt. As a result, at the end of 2011, defendant started gambling at casinos. He testified that his “plan was to save the business.” Defendant admitted that he gambled with some of his customers’ money and that none of them gave him permission to do so. Following a jury trial, defendant was convicted on four counts and acquitted on two. He argued on appeal that the evidence was insufficient to convict him and that the trial court erred in granting the State’s motion for joinder. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed defendant's convictions. View "New Hampshire v. Bell" on Justia Law

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Defendant Corey Donovan appealed his conviction on a single felony count of possession of a controlled substance. He argued on appeal the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress evidence. “All of these circumstances objectively communicated to the defendant that his compliance with the officers’ requests was compelled.” The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded defendant was seized, and that his seizure was unconstitutional, therefore the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "New Hampshire v. Donovan" on Justia Law

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In August 2019, the State of New Hampshire filed three juvenile delinquency petitions against Respondent in the family division, charging him with one count of pattern aggravated felonious sexual assault (AFSA), one count of felonious sexual assault, and one count of indecent exposure. The AFSA petition alleged that the acts comprising the pattern offense occurred on four specific dates: June 22, 2018; August 24, 2018; September 15, 2018; and May 27, 2019. When the petitions were filed, the alleged victim was six years old and Respondent was seventeen years old. Respondent turned eighteen in November 2019 and at the time of this appeal was twenty years old. After filing the petitions, the State, pursuant to RSA 169-B:24, petitioned to certify Respondent as an adult and transfer the case to superior court. This petition was denied and the New Hampshire Supreme Court accepted the State’s Rule 11 petition to determine whether the superior court erred in denying the State’s petition to certify Respondent as an adult. Finding the superior court so erred, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded. View "Petition of State of New Hampshire" on Justia Law

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Petitioner John Doe appealed a superior court order dismissing his petition for declaratory and injunctive relief for failure to state a claim under either RSA 105:13-b (2013) or the New Hampshire Constitution. In April 2016, while employed as a patrol officer by a town police department, Doe was investigated by that department for denying that he wrote in permanent marker on a department rain jacket. Although Doe “was led to believe” he would only receive a “verbal counseling” for what he understood to be a misunderstanding, he later found that the investigation resulted in a one-page written report. In April 2017, after leaving the department, Doe was informed by a letter from the County Attorney’s Office that, from a review of his personnel file, his name was being placed on the Exculpatory Evidence Schedule (EES). Doe did not contest his inclusion on the EES at that time, but later, Doe submitted two requests to remove his name from the EES to the Attorney General’s Office (AGO). Both requests were denied for lack of an “order or other determination” overturning the original finding of misconduct. Citing RSA 105:13-b and his right to due process under the Federal Constitution, Doe filed a petition for declaratory relief and a request for preliminary and permanent injunctions against the AGO, seeking review of his personnel file, removal from the EES, and attorney’s fees. The New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded RSA 105:13-b, II did not authorize the trial court to review the contents of an officer’s personnel file outside the scope of a particular criminal case. The Supreme Court reversed the trial court's ruling on Doe's state constitutional due process issue, and remanded for further proceedings without prejudice to Doe amending his petition given a statutory change. View "Doe v. N.H. Attorney General" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Daniel Richard appealed a superior court order granting defendants' the Speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives and the New Hampshire Senate President, motion to dismiss his complaint seeking equitable relief. Plaintiff sought under Part I, Articles 31 and 32 of the State Constitution: (1) a writ of mandamus to compel the Speaker to assemble the legislature to hear his May 2019 and January 2020 remonstrances; (2) a writ of prohibition to prohibit the Speaker and the Senate President from preventing any document addressed to the legislature from being publicly recorded and heard by the legislature as a whole; and (3) an order preventing the legislature from violating his due process rights. The trial court dismissed plaintiff’s requests for writs of mandamus and prohibition after deciding that his right to relief was not clear under Part I, Articles 31 and 32. The trial court dismissed plaintiff’s due process claim because it found, in part, that the decision not to hear his remonstrances was “rationally related to the legitimate government interest of running the legislature efficiently and economically.” Finding no reversible error in this judgment, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed. View "Richard v. Speaker of the New Hampshire House of Representatives et al." on Justia Law

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Defendant Juan Monegro-Diaz was charged with driving with a suspended license. The State appealed a circuit court order granting defendant’s motion to suppress evidence obtained as a result of a warrantless seizure of defendant and his vehicle. The State argued the circuit court erred by ruling that the seizure violated Part I, Article 19 of the New Hampshire Constitution and the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Federal Constitution. After review, the New Hampshire Supreme Court concluded that the circuit court properly ruled that the officer who stopped defendant’s vehicle lacked reasonable suspicion that defendant was driving with a suspended license. Accordingly, judgment was affirmed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "New Hampshire v. Monegro-Diaz" on Justia Law

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Defendant Ernesto Rivera appealed a superior court order denying his motion to vacate his 2020 resentencing on certain of his 2015 convictions. On appeal, he argued the trial court impermissibly “increased” certain of his sentences and that it erred by rejecting his claim that his counsel in the 2020 resentencing procedure was ineffective. The New Hampshire Supreme Court determined defendant's due process rights were not violated and that the 2020 sentences were within the trial court’s sound discretion. However, the Court agreed with defendant that had defense counsel objected, and the 2015 sentences for the convictions from defendant’s second trial remained unchanged, the trial court properly could have considered those sentences when deciding whether the new sentences should have been consecutive or concurrent. The parties did not fully brief what showing of prejudice, if any, defendant had to make in this case beyond showing that the trial court should have sustained the objection, had it been made by defense counsel, to resentencing on the second trial convictions. The Supreme Court vacated the trial court’s ruling on the prejudice prong of the ineffective assistance of counsel test because it was premised upon the court’s erroneous ruling that had defense counsel objected to resentencing on the second trial convictions, the objection would have been properly overruled. The case was remanded for further proceedings. View "New Hampshire v. Rivera" on Justia Law