Three New Hampshire counties are on track to begin next year a streamlined system for processing felonies that removes the automatic probable cause hearing.
Today, all arrests begin in a local court, and anyone charged with a crime gets a probable cause hearing. But according to a bill passed by the House Wednesday, felony crimes will begin in the county courthouse starting in July of next year. Defendants will then have to petition a judge for a probable cause hearing -- that’s when the court determines if its more likely than not the crime occurred.
As Rep. Claire Rouillard said, the controversial bill was considered carefully by the House Judicial Committee, which recommended the bill unanimously.
"The judiciary department did not take changing the criminal process lightly," Rouillard said. "We spoke with judges, attorneys, police departments, court officials, county officials, and we determined that the amendment we put forward was the right thing to do. We had to get it right."
The bill passed the House 212 to 127. If it becomes law, the streamlined system will begin in Strafford, Cheshire and Belknap counties, then expanded statewide if successful.