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Private Prosecutions: Introduction

Reviewed 2/13/2019


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Introduction

A criminal offense is considered an offense against the State, rather than against an individual. The power to enforce the criminal laws of New Hampshire is generally entrusted to the State through the Attorney General, the County Attorneys, and local prosecutors.  In New Hampshire, however, criminal complaints may be filed and prosecuted by private citizens or private attorneys under very limited circumstances. 

There is no statute or court rule that expressly permits or prohibits private prosecution of a criminal complaint by an interested party or that person's attorney. RSA 592-A:7 provides that criminal proceedings before a district court begin when a complaint is filed with the court but does not specify who may file those complaints.  It is New Hampshire's courts that have held that the power of private citizens to file and prosecute criminal complaints exists.  

Bear in mind that a private prosecutor does not have prosecutorial immunity and is responsible for all costs for the arrest, examination and conveyance of the defendant. Any fine that may be imposed will go to the town or county, not to the private prosecutor, and making a false statement on the complaint may result in criminal prosecution of the private prosecutor.

Disclaimer

Please remember that this guide is for information purposes only and is not comprehensive.  It is intended as a starting point for research, to illustrate the various sources of the law, and to provide guidance in their use. NH Law About ... is not a substitute for the services of an attorney.