New Hampshire v. CharestAnnotate this Case
Defendant Jonathan Charest appealed the sentence imposed by the Superior Court following his conviction by a jury for being a felon in possession of a firearm. After the jury returned a verdict of guilty on the felon-in-possession charge, the trial court asked the jury to issue a special verdict on whether it unanimously found that the defendant possessed, rather than controlled or owned, a firearm. The jury answered "yes." The trial court sentenced the defendant to three to six years' imprisonment. The court imposed the mandatory minimum sentence of three years under RSA 651:2, II-g, which applies "[i]f a person is convicted of a felony, an element of which is the possession . . . of a deadly weapon, and the deadly weapon is a firearm." At sentencing, the trial judge explained to the defendant, "You were just sentenced to the minimum. . . . I don't have any discretion . . . to do anything other than to sentence you . . . to . . . those terms." The defendant did not appeal his conviction, but argued that the trial court erred when it imposed the minimum mandatory sentence under RSA 651:2, II-g because: (1) the offense he was charged with, RSA 159:3, I, did not have as an element the possession of a firearm in a manner that rendered it a deadly weapon under RSA 625:11, V; and (2) the jury did not find that he possessed a deadly weapon within the meaning of RSA 625:11, V. Because the defendant did not make these arguments before the trial court, he invoked the plain error rule, which allowed the Supreme Court to correct errors not raised before the trial court. Because the trial court erroneously failed to exercise the discretion afforded to it at sentencing, the Court found that the error affected the integrity and fairness of the judicial proceedings. Accordingly, Defendant's sentence was vacated and the case remanded for resentencing.