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Stopping man to question re felonies needs reasonable suspicion

There must be proof beyond a reasonable doubt of each element of the charged crime to validate a conviction under the New Hampshire criminal laws. The mere location of an individual in the vicinity of a reported crime is insufficient in itself to validate a criminal charge. That issue may become relevant in the arrest of a 24-year-old man by Merrimack police recently on charges that he committed the felonies of attempted burglary and other violations.

The police accuse him of attempting to break into people's homes in Merrimack around 3 a.m. on Jan. 22. One homeowner had called the police with a report of hearing someone inside their home. Police who responded did find evidence of broken windows and removed screens at the home, indicating at least an attempt by someone to enter the home.

They also spotted foot prints in the snow around the house and other broken items outside. The police set up a perimeter around the area. A second anxious homeowner called to report someone trying to get in the owner's house through a window. The police then allegedly observed the accused walking on a road not far from the second call. 

They arrested him on two counts of attempted burglary and several counts of malicious mischief. Police say that they gathered evidence and investigated, although it appears that they arrested the suspect on the spot. They say that the accused has a substantial history of criminal charges and domestic violence going back several years.

However, his past problems do not justify an arrest for felonies and several misdemeanors simply because he was walking on the street in the early morning hours. There may be sufficient evidence for the police to have stopped the suspect, but that is at least debatable at this point. Under New Hampshire and federal constitutional principles, there must first be a reasonable suspicion that the individual is engaged in criminal activity before he can be stopped and questioned or frisked. An aggressive, seasoned criminal defense counsel will undoubtedly impose in-depth questioning of the police as a necessary step in probing the validity of the police stop in this matter.  

Source: Merrimack, NH Patch, "Nashua Man Arrested On Attempted Burglary Charges", Tony Schinella, Jan. 23, 2018

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