The New Hampshire Public Defender was established in 1972 as a pilot project of New Hampshire Legal Assistance, and has existed as a stand-alone institution since 1985. Its sole purpose is to provide indigent defense services to citizens charged with crimes. The Program began with a single office in Concord. Over time, the Program opened satellite offices in other counties, and established administrative offices in its Merrimack County office, located in Concord, the state capital.
In 1981, the Public Defender, in collaboration with the Franklin Pierce Law Center (now the University of New Hampshire School of Law), started the Appellate Defender Program, which provides indigent defense services to defendants who appeal their convictions to the New Hampshire Supreme Court.
Today, the Public Defender is an independent, non-profit, corporation with offices in every county. The Program works diligently to provide quality representation in a cost-effective manner to indigent defendants accused of crimes in all state courts. In addition to its attorneys, the Public Defender employs legal assistants, investigators, support staff, and information technology specialists, all of whom are dedicated to its core mission of serving indigent citizens accused of crimes.
The Program’s administration consists of its Executive Director, two Deputy Directors, a Director of Finance and Administration, and a Director of Investigations. It reports to a Board of Directors and the Judicial Council, which administers all indigent counsel services on behalf of the State.
What We Do
The New Hampshire Public Defender represents indigent people charged in New Hampshire courts with crimes that carry the possibility of jail time upon conviction. These offenses include Class A misdemeanors, which carry a maximum penalty of one year in jail, and felonies, which carry the possibility of a state prison sentence of more than one year upon conviction.
The Program also represents indigent juveniles charged with delinquency offenses, and indigent adults or juveniles who have appealed their convictions to the New Hampshire Supreme Court. In addition, the Program represents people who have been charged with homicide, as well as those who are alleged to have violated their probation, parole, or a condition of a previously suspended sentence.
What We Cannot Do
The Program cannot represent any person who is not indigent. Every person who the Program represents must be found qualified for the Program’s services by the court in which the defendant faces charges.
In addition, the Program cannot:
- Represent any person who is charged with a violation or a Class B misdemeanor, because people convicted of these offenses cannot be sentenced to jail.
- File or defend civil lawsuits or assist people in civil matters.
- Represent New Hampshire residents who face criminal prosecution in another state’s court.
- Represent New Hampshire residents charged with crimes in federal court.
- Represent people in Family Court facing civil sanctions related to the alleged abuse and neglect of a child.
- Represent either people seeking domestic violence restraining orders, or the defendants in those proceedings.
- Represent people seeking to annul convictions. A link to the annulment statute is here. A link to the annulment application form is here.
For a list of agencies which may be able to help you if the Program cannot, please go to the Useful Links on this web site.