NH Legislature moves to require counsel prior to fees/fines incarceration

Key_development Question_mark

06/02/2017, Legislation, Incarceration for Fees/Fines (incomplete)

N.H. Stat. § 604-A:2-f(II), added in 2017 as the result of SB 200, addresses hearings regarding a defendant’s failure to pay court-ordered fines/fees or perform community service.  It specifies that “Prior to conducting an ability to pay or ability to perform final hearing, the court shall: ... (c) Inform the defendant that he or she is entitled to counsel for the final hearing in which incarceration is a possible outcome and, if the defendant cannot afford one, the court will appoint one.”  Moreover, N.H. Super. Ct. R. Rule 29(e)(4) specifies that “Conduct which the court finds is a willful failure to pay an assessment or to perform community service as ordered may be punishable as civil contempt of court subject to the provisions of RSA 618:9.”  Thus, the combination of the statute and rule provide a right to counsel for civil contempt proceedings relating to failure to pay fines/fees.

This bill derived from a petition to the New Hampshire Supreme Court to create rules providing this right to counsel, but after the Court declined to do so (despite the recommendation of its own study committee), the bill followed.

Appointment of Counsel: categorical Qualified: no


Nccrc_involvement_icon The NCCRC gave input and support to the court rule petition that preceded this bill.