NH House Passes HB 1476 Seeking to Reverse Bail Reform

In March, 2022, the New Hampshire House of Representatives passed HB 1476 intended to peel back bail reform passed just more than three years ago. In 2019, the legislature passed bail reform that eliminated cash bail for those accused of class B misdemeanors so long as the court found the accused not dangerous to themselves or others. 597:2 (VI). The new proposal targets increased incarceration and cash bail for those already accused or convicted of various levels of crime who are free.

Here is the relevant text of HB 1476 that amends RSA 597:2 seeking to lock up those presently released in the criminal system:

A person charged with an offense who is, or was at the time the offense was
committed, on release pending trial for a felony or misdemeanor under federal or state law, release
pending imposition or execution of sentence, appeal of sentence or conviction, or completion of
sentence, for any offense under federal or state law; or probation or parole for any offense under
federal or state law, except as provided in RSA 597:1-d, III; or a person charged with a
class B misdemeanor, third or subsequent offense, shall be detained for a period of not more
than 36 hours from the time of his or her arrest, excluding Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.

What does this mean? This applies to those already in the criminal system who have been released pending a hearing. The judge must set cash bail or hold that person with no bail on preventative detention. It also calls into serious question the legality and morality of locking up people charged criminally for offenses that carry no possibility of jail time. Some variation of this bill is almost certain to be signed in to law by Governor Sununu.

Bail reform has been a topic of national news and made frequent appearances in political debate in the past decade. What is bail reform? Generally, bail reform seeks to equalize eliminate having money or not as the deciding factor between whom is free pending a criminal charge. It seeks to promote the non-incarceration of those accused of nonviolent misdemeanors and some felonies. It seeks to curb the disproportionate impact bail laws have had on minorities and those in urban areas.

Unfortunately, predicting the behavior of anyone is impossible and some of those released on bail commit atrocious acts. Any time violent crime rises, bail reform is a primary target. Any time a protected party under a bail order is attacked or killed, bail reform is vigorously attacked.

There are many different types of bail hearings depending on the charge, court, and stage of the proceeding. An experienced New Hampshire criminal defense lawyer can help guide you through this changing process and seek to maintain or create your freedom from incarceration.