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Manslaughter charge may invoke several criminal defense issues

New Hampshire, like all other states, provides for various degrees of homicide in its criminal laws. The spectrum of charges and the severity of punishment depends generally on the degree of the defendant's criminal intent alleged by the government. These issues are also determined by how egregious, wanton and/or premeditated were the defendant's alleged actions. Criminal defense counsel looks at these factors while framing the most effective and aggressive defense or plea negotiation posture that can be asserted.

That process will generally be relevant in the recent arrest of a 25-year-old man who is charged in the homicide death of a 57-year-old social services worker who resided in Alstead. Cheshire County authorities say that the two people knew each other, but no other facts were released regarding their relationship. The decedent was found dead in his home of a gunshot wound to the head.

It is reported that the defendant was the first person to call 911 to report the death, which indicates that it is likely not going to be contested that he was involved in some manner with the shooting event. The arrest, however, was not made for three more days due to an unfolding investigation by the police. In addition, the County Attorney indicated that the charge of manslaughter was filed due to their belief that the death occurred from reckless behavior.

In that sense, it appears that the charge relates to the type of homicide that is not intentional and does not involve the high degree of awareness and mens rea usually involved in voluntary manslaughter and murder allegations. Although manslaughter charges in New Hampshire can carry penalties as high as 30 years, the punishment can also in some instances be as little as a few years. The outcome in that respect depends on the nature of the criminal defense presented and on the mitigating circumstances that can be established.

Source:, "Arrest made in shooting death of Alstead resident; victim remembered", Xander Landen, Jan. 12, 2017

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