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Exploring Bail Reform In New Hampshire

In New Hampshire, those without financial resources could spend weeks and months behind bars for a relatively minor charge like possession of marijuana. That's because getting out of jail before trial requires those who have been charged to pay bail. And according to a story by New Hampshire Public Radio, in some cases people are staying locked up for long periods of time over minor offenses because they can't afford to pay as little as $100.00 for bail. 

Bail is meant to serve as an inducement for those awaiting trial to come back for their court date, rather than fleeing to evade their charges. In the case of a more serious crime, bail may be set at an amount that the charged person has no hope of paying. This is meant to prevent a person who could be a danger to the community from doing additional damage before the court date. 

If you're charged with a crime, and you get out by paying your set bail, you get that money back when you return for your court date. But many people aren't getting that far, instead remaining in jail for the weeks and months it can take before their trial because they simply cannot afford to pay.

For a college student arrested for a minor charge like possession of marijuana or assault, not being able to make bail can have serious consequences - missed class and tests can set you back in your education. For others with jobs and bills to pay, being in jail for an extended time can trigger job and housing losses. 

Our current bail system in New Hampshire may not stay the way it is forever, though. Some counties are already moving toward "pretrial supervision" - a system that works more like probation, where those awaiting trial would check in with an officer periodically instead of having to buy their way out of jail before the trial. And an effort at statewide bail reform is already underway.

Regardless of ability to pay bail, anyone charged with a crime should seek the counsel of an experienced criminal defense lawyer who can protect their rights and secure the best possible outcome given the potential consequences of the charge.

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Green & Utter, P.A.
764 Chestnut Street
Manchester, NH 03104

Phone: 603-413-4983
Fax: 603-669-9330
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