September 16, 2021
- Whether the trial court erred when it denied the defendant’s request for an evidentiary bail hearing on disputed facts based on newly discovered evidence related to dangerousness under RSA 597:2.
Defendant is charged with seven counts each of manslaughter, negligent homicide, and negligent homicide – driving while under the influence of a controlled drug; as well as one count each of aggravated DUI and reckless conduct. The defendant argued that RSA 597:2, III-IV, creates an implied right to an evidentiary bail hearing when the parties dispute facts relevant to a dangerousness finding. The defendant identified new evidence in the form of an accident report. The Court interpreted the statutory provisions to grant the trial court discretion to determine whether an evidentiary bail hearing is necessary upon receipt of a request, not that an evidentiary hearing is statutorily mandated under the circumstances.
The Court went on to address the defendant’s alternative argument that if an evidentiary bail hearing is not mandated by statute, that the trial court’s denial of his request was not a sustainable exercise of discretion. The defendant identified his character, the danger he poses, the strength of the State’s case, and whether less restrictive alternatives exist to detention without bail as relevant factors to consider in determining dangerousness. Making all assumptions relating to the factors identified by the defendant on dangerousness in the defendant’s favor, the Court concluded that undisputed facts related to each of the factors existed to support the trial courts decision. On his character and the danger he poses, the court held that undisputed evidence of substance abuse, criminal behavior including charges of driving under the influence, as well as violating prior conditions of release, were sufficient to support the trial court’s determination on those factors. On the strength of the State’s case, the court held that because he defendant was reindicted on all but one charge after the release of the new evidence, that sufficient undisputed evidence existed to support the trial court’s determination on that factor as well. Lastly, the Court held that the undisputed facts above were sufficient for the court to find that because the defendant failed to live a law-abiding life free from controlled substances while on conditional release, he was unlikely to do so now.
John M. Formella, attorney general (Scott D. Chase, assistant attorney general, on the memorandum of law and orally) for the State. Christopher M. Johnson, chief appellate defender, Concord, on the memorandum of law and orally for the defendant.