Common Legal Terms

Appeal – A defendant who is found guilty at trial in district court has the right to appeal the conviction for a jury trial in the Superior Court. A defendant found guilty after a jury trial at the Superior Court can appeal the conviction to the NH Supreme Court on an issue of law.

Arraignment – The defendant’s first court appearance after arrest. At the arraignment, the judge will notify the defendant of the charge, a plea will be entered, an attorney will be appointed to the defendant if he cannot afford one, and bail will be addressed.

Bail – A form of security, usually money, set by the court to ensure the defendant’s appearance at all court proceedings and that he/she will remain of good behavior while awaiting trial. Types of bail include: Cash Bail, a defendant must pay the full bail amount to be released from jail, Corporate Surety Bail, a defendant must pay a portion of the bail amount and must make arrangements with a bail bondsman to put up the rest, and Personal Recognizance Bail, a defendant is not required to pay any of the bail amount but usually must sign conditions of release promising to appear.

Continuance – A court hearing is postponed at the request of one or both of the parties.

Defendant – The individual charged with the crime.

Felony – A crime punishable by incarceration of more than one year at the NH State Prison.

Misdemeanor – A crime punishable by incarceration of no more than one year at the County House of Corrections.

No Contact Order – An order issued by the court, normally included as a defendant’s conditions of bail, forbidding the defendant from having contact with the victim or witnesses of the crime committed.

Nolo Contendere (Nolo) – A defendant can plead nolo to the charges against them. By pleading nolo, the defendant is not admitting their guilt to the court; however a finding of guilty will be entered into the record.

Plea Negotiation –In exchange for a negotiated disposition the defendant will enter a guilty or Nolo plea and gives up the right to appeal their case.

Pre-Sentence Investigation – After trial and before the sentencing of a defendant the court may request a pre-sentence investigation. This is a report compiled by the probation/parole office which will recommend a sentence to the court. The victim will have an opportunity to provide feedback during this process.

Probation – After conviction a defendant is released into the community in lieu of incarceration while under the supervision of a probation officer.

Restitution – A monetary amount a defendant is ordered by the court to pay the victim for any loss, damage, or injury suffered as a result of the crime.

Sentencing – After conviction the court will impose a punishment in the form of fine, incarceration, and/or probation. Sentences can also include no contact orders, restitution, and court ordered counseling.

Subpoena - Paperwork issued under the authority of the court to compel the appearance of a victim or witness at a judicial proceeding. The disobedience of which may be punishable as a contempt of court. Subpoenas are served by members of law enforcement.

Trial – A court hearing in which all evidence, information and witness testimony is presented. Upon completion, a verdict will be made by the judge or jury. If the verdict is not guilty, the defendant has been acquitted and will be released. If the verdict is guilty, the defendant will be sentenced by the judge.

Victim Impact Statement - A voluntary statement prepared by the victim and given to the judge during the sentencing process. The statement should describe how the crime has affected the victim and others close to them. Victims can use this to address the physical, emotional, and financial effects of this crime, as well as any other changes in their life they may have experienced. An impact statement helps the judge understand how this crime has affected them.