New Hampshire v. WhitneyAnnotate this Case
Defendant Bryon Whitney appealed a superior court order that remanded his case to the circuit court on grounds that, because he was convicted of a class B misdemeanor in circuit court, the superior court lacked jurisdiction over the appeal from the circuit court. Defendant was charged in circuit court with resisting arrest or detention. Following a bench trial, defendant was found guilty and sentenced to pay a 500 fine, plus penalty assessment. Defendant filed an appeal with the superior court under RSA 599:1, seeking a de novo jury trial. Because the superior court’s jurisdiction to hear de novo appeals from circuit court was conferred by statute, determining the jurisdiction of the superior court in this case was a matter of statutory interpretation, which presented a question of law subject to the New Hampshire Supreme Court's de novo review. Defendant argued he was charged with a class A misdemeanor in the circuit court and, thus, the superior court erred in remanding the case back to the circuit court, rather than providing him with a jury trial. He further argued that by classifying the offense as a class B misdemeanor, the superior court effectively violated his statutory right to appeal to superior court for a de novo jury trial. The Supreme Court determined that when a defendant is charged with a class A misdemeanor in circuit court, but the sentence does not include a period of incarceration and, pursuant to RSA 625:9, VIII (2016), the court records the conviction and sentence as a class B misdemeanor. Defendant would then still have a right to a de novo jury trial in superior court. The Court concluded those circumstances were not present here: because defendant was charged with a class B misdemeanor in circuit court, he was never exposed to the imposition of class A misdemeanor penalties and was, therefore, not entitled to a de novo jury trial.