An arraignment is typically your first court appearance where you are formally advised of the charges against you and asked to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or if permitted by the court a NOLO plea. A NOLO plea in New Hampshire is the equivalent of a guilty plea in the criminal context, it does provide you some minor protection if you anticipate being sued for the conduct that led to your arrest. You will have a record of conviction if you enter a guilty, NOLO or no contest plea.
In district court, an Attorney can typically waive this hearing on you behalf and have a not guilty plea entered and a trial date is set. Unfortunately, some district courts have created "local rules" requiring your presence at these preliminary hearings to potentially readdress the issue of bail.
If you are charged with a felony offense two different things may happen depending on the county you are in. Traditionally when charged with a felony, you will be required to enter a not guilty plea at the district court level as the district court does not have the authority to resolve a felony level offense. Another hearing date will be scheduled for a probable cause hearing and, assuming the State can establish probable cause for your arrest, the case will be "bound over" and sent to superior court where you will be "indicted" or formally charged with a felony offense in the court that has the jurisdiction to resolve the case.
It is more likely the county you are in is part of the "felonies first" project and your case will not go to district court but rather go directly to Superior Court. Strafford, Merrimack and Rockingham are just a few of the counties participating in the "felonies first" project, designed to "expedite" cases. If you are arrested on a felony case, it is imperative for you to retain counsel quickly who is familiar with the practice in the county where you are charged. Both the process and legal strategies are different depending on where you are and familiarity with the jurisdiction involved critical in obtaining the best result. To understand the issue surrounding the change in arraignment process for felonies, see www.unionleader.com/courts/jury-still-out-on-success-of-felonies-first-as-last-counties-make-the-switch--20171113 At each step of this process the involvement of an attorney with knowledge of the local rules and court culture is critical in seeking a prompt and just resolution of your case. Going to court alone is almost always a very bad idea.
Andrew Cotrupi, Esquire, 428 Lafayette Rd., Suite 102, Hampton, NH 03842 Phone: (603) 926-5818 Fax: (603) 758- 6376