Fate Of Probable Cause Hearings In N.H. Unclear

Mar 23, 2015

The House Finance Committee works to finalize the House budget proposal on March 23, 2015.
Credit Paige Sutherland/NHPR

House budget writers are backing a proposal that would eliminate probable cause hearings for those facing felony charges in New Hampshire. 

The House Finance Committee voted in favor of the measure on Monday,  saying the change would save the state money. Meanwhile criminal defense lawyers say it will make it harder for anyone charged with a felony.

Under the policy a defendant could still request a probable cause hearing within a superior court, but Gary Apfel, a member of the New Hampshire Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, is skeptical that judges would be quick to grant them.

“I think this will make New Hampshire the only jurisdiction of which I am aware that a defendant has no means what so ever to challenge the state’s case before trial,” Apfel said.

“And that means for someone who is incarcerated, that person might be sitting around in a jail cell for a really long time, for a case that doesn’t have any merit,” he added.

If passed by the full House and Senate and then approved by the Governor – this new process would take effect next January.