In New Hampshire, theft cases fall into two general categories: felony thefts, where the felony status is based on the value of the property stolen, or recidivism; and misdemeanor theft cases. And thefts can be charged in many different ways, based on the manner in which the accused allegedly took or received the property.
We encourage you to contact our New Hampshire criminal defense attorneys if you have been charged with a theft offense: we have years of experience investigating charges and defenses in theft cases and will diligently help you offer your best defense.
Chapter 637 of New Hampshire's Criminal Code establishes a number of different theft offenses. Click on any item to see the actual text of the law.
Most felony thefts are charged as felonies based on the value of the property involved, or other considerations set forth in the New Hampshire statute, summarized as follows:
This page on our site lists the potential penalties for class A and B felonies, and for class A and B misdemeanors. Note that in theft cases, there will usually be an order of restitution, as well as potential fines, jail, prison, probation.
All theft prosecutions, except for the "unauthorized use" category above, require the State to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant had the specific mental intent to deprive the owner of the property. Thus, the most common defense in theft cases is that the defendant did not have that specific mental intent. For example, we have defended many clients, charged with receiving stolen property, based on the defense that the client did not know that the item purchased from a friend or obtained as a gift had been stolen. As another example, in a recent felony embezzlement case, we successfully argued that the defendant, a bookkeeper in the business, had actually been given permission to purchase certain items on the company account for herself (when there was a falling out among the business owners, one of them exploited the situation by going to the police).
In shoplifting cases, especially "willful concealment" cases where the detention and arrest occurs before the accused has even left the store, the accused may raise the defense that she was simply being absent-minded, distracted, preoccupied by children's antics, etc. and had no purpose to steal the item placed in a pocket, under the child seat, etc.
In many cases, there is a dispute about who really owns the property. It's the job of the police and prosecution, to not take these "civil cases" (good faith disputes between people over property ownership) and transform them into criminal prosecutions, but nevertheless, it happens.
In some parts of New Hampshire, there are "diversion" programs available for first-time offenders, or even potentially for offenders that have been arrested before. For example, in Merrimack County, where the Concord office of the firm is located, the Merrimack County Diversion Program helps many people who have been charged with a theft avoid a criminal record. We strongly support the Merrimack County Diversion Program, because it is independent of the prosecution and court system, staffed by people of high integrity who we trust, cares about its participants' future. The Program also strengthens our community through, to date, 130,000 hours of community service performed, and helps victims, collecting over $280,000 in restitution to date.
In New Hampshire, our laws don't use the terms "larceny," "embezzlement" and "false pretenses," but the theft laws cover all of those categories. For example, Massachusetts has many offenses that are designated as "larceny," which mirror similar offenses that we call "theft" in New Hampshire.
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