TOWNS, CITIES, VILLAGE DISTRICTS, AND UNINCORPORATED PLACES
POWERS AND DUTIES OF TOWNS
Power to Make Bylaws
31:39-d Local Ordinance Citations; Pleas by Mail.
In addition to any other enforcement procedure authorized by law, and regardless of whether a town has adopted an administrative enforcement procedure under RSA 31:39-c, a local official with authority to prosecute an offense under any municipal code, ordinance, bylaw, or regulation, if such offense is classified as a violation under applicable law, may issue and serve upon the defendant, in addition to a summons to appear in the district court, a local ordinance citation as set forth in this section. The defendant receiving such a citation may plead guilty or nolo contendere by mail by entering that plea as provided herein. If such a plea is accepted by the district court and the prescribed fine is paid with the plea by mail, the defendant shall not be required to appear personally or by counsel; otherwise the defendant shall appear as directed by the court. The following procedure shall be used:
I. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a complaint and summons may be served upon the defendant by postpaid certified mail, return receipt requested. Return receipt showing that the defendant has received the complaint and summons shall constitute an essential part of the service. If service cannot be effected by certified mail, then the court may direct that service on the defendant be completed as in other violation complaints.
II. The local ordinance citation shall contain:
(a) The caption: "Local Ordinance Citation, Town (City) of __________".
(b) The name of the offender, and address if known to the prosecuting official.
(c) The code, ordinance, bylaw, or regulation the offender is charged with violating.
(d) The act or circumstances constituting the violation.
(e) The place of the violation.
(f) The date, if any, upon which the offender received written notice of the violation by the municipality.
(g) The time and date, if any, upon which any further violation or continuing violation was witnessed subsequent to such written notice.
(h) The amount of the penalty that is payable by the offender. If the offense is a continuing one for which a penalty is assessed for each day the offense continues, the amount of the penalty shall be based on the number of days the violation has continued since the time notice was given to the offender, up to a maximum of 10 days' violation charged in one citation.
(i) Instructions informing the defendant that the defendant may answer the citation by mail or may personally appear in court upon the date on the summons, and instructing the defendant how to enter a plea by mail, together with either the amount of the penalty specified in the citation, or a request for a trial.
(j) The address of the clerk of the district court where the plea by mail may be entered.
(k) A warning to the defendant that failure to respond to the citation on or before the date on the summons may result in the defendant's arrest as provided in paragraph V.
(l) The signature of the prosecuting official.
III. Defendants who are issued a summons and local ordinance citation and who wish to plead guilty or nolo contendere shall enter their plea on the summons and return it with payment of the civil penalty, as set forth in the citation, to the clerk of the court prior to the arraignment date, or shall appear in court on the date of arraignment.
IV. Civil penalties collected by the district court under this section shall be remitted to the municipality issuing the citation. Whenever a defendant (a) does not enter a plea by mail prior to the arraignment day and does not appear personally or by counsel on or before that date or move for a continuance; or (b) otherwise fails to appear for a scheduled court appearance in connection with a summons for any offense, the defendant shall be defaulted and the court shall determine what the civil penalty would be upon a plea of guilty or nolo contendere and shall impose an administrative processing fee in addition to the civil penalty. Such fee shall be the same as the administrative processing fee under RSA 502-A:19-b, and shall be retained by the court for the benefit of the state.
V. The court may, in its discretion, issue a bench warrant for the arrest of any defendant who:
(a) Is defaulted in accordance with the provisions of paragraph IV of this section;
(b) Fails to pay a fine or other penalty imposed in connection with a conviction for a violation of a local code, ordinance, bylaw, or regulation which a court has determined the defendant is able to pay, or issues a bad check in payment of a fine or other penalty; or
(c) Fails to comply with a similar order on any matter within the court's discretion.
VI. For cause, the court in its discretion may refuse to accept a plea by mail and may impose a fine or penalty other than that stated in the local ordinance citation. The court may order the defendant to appear personally in court for the disposition of the defendant's case.
VII. The prosecuting official may serve additional local ordinance citations, without giving additional written notice or appeal opportunity under paragraph I, if the facts or circumstances constituting the violation continue beyond the date or dates of any prior citation. A plea of guilty or nolo contendere to the prior citation shall not affect the rights of the defendant with respect to a subsequent citation.
VIII. Forms and rules for the local ordinance citation and summons shall be developed and adopted by the New Hampshire supreme court.
IX. This section is not intended in any way to abrogate other enforcement actions or remedies in the district or superior court, nor to require written notice as a prerequisite to other types of actions or remedies for violations of local codes, ordinances, bylaws, or regulations.
IX-a. For any offense that is subject to enforcement under RSA 676:17, a person who fails to respond to a citation under this section within the time stated in the citation shall be subject to the subsequent offense penalties of RSA 676:17.
X. This section shall not apply to violations of the New Hampshire building code as defined in RSA 155-A:1, IV, or to motor vehicle offenses under title XXI or any local law enacted thereunder.
Source. 2009, 270:1, eff. Jan. 1, 2010. 2014, 77:1, 2, eff. Jan. 1, 2015.