What happens at trial?

The right to a speedy, public, and impartial trial is guaranteed to every citizen by the United States Constitution, as well as the New Hampshire Constitution. In Circuit Court, the case is tried without a jury, and the Judge performs the jury's function of weighing the evidence, determining the credibility of witnesses, and issuing a verdict.

At trial, the prosecutor introduces the State's case first, and calls witnesses to testify. Those witnesses take an oath to tell the truth issued by the Judge, or the attorney asking the questions. The prosecutor then conducts a direct examination of the witnesses, and is required to ask open-ended questions designed for the witness to tell their story. The defense attorney then conducts a cross examination of the witness, and will likely ask only leading questions designed to tell the accused’s story, or designed to make a specific point that is instrumental to the defense. The prosecutor will then have a second opportunity to ask open-ended questions in a redirect examination, followed by the defense attorney having a second opportunity to conduct a recross examination. The redirect and recross examinations are typically much shorter than the initial questioning, and sometimes, are not even necessary.

Following the testimony of all of the State’s witnesses and introduction of all of its evidence, the State will rest its case. Typically, for procedural and tactical reasons, the defense attorney will immediately ask the judge to dismiss the case. If the Judge denies the request to dismiss at that time, the defense attorney will have an opportunity to call its witnesses to testify, or to call the accused himself/herself to testify. The accused is not required to submit any evidence of any kind. If the defense does call witnesses, that testimony will follow the same outline the prosecutor followed in the first half of the trial. The defense will rest at the end of their presentation of evidence as the State previously did.

After the State and defense have both rested, the Judge will make a determination whether the State proved the elements of charged offenses beyond a reasonable doubt. Sometimes the Judge will ask for arguments from the prosecutor or defense before making a decision. If the Judge determines that the State met the beyond a reasonable doubt burden of proof, they will find the accused guilty.  If not, the Judge will find the accused not guilty.   

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1. How do I contact the Prosecutor?
2. When should I contact the Prosecutor to discuss my arrest and possible resolution of the case?
3. Can I change my court date?
4. I have received a ticket from a Police Officer. What do I do?
5. I have received a court summons from a Police Officer or complaint but do I have to appear? Can I waive the appearance by mail and plead guilty?
6. I want to plead guilty but I do not have the money to pay the fines. When are they due?
7. I have an arraignment date set - what is going to happen?
8. What happens at trial?
9. I am a victim or witness - what is going to happen?
10. I am charged with a violation level offense. What are the possible penalties?
11. I am charged with a Class B Misdemeanor. What are the possible penalties?
12. Where do hearings occur?
13. Can I bring a weapon to court?
14. I am charged with a felony. What happens next?
15. I am charged with a Class A Misdemeanor. What are the possible penalties?
16. Where is the Grafton County Department of Corrections located?