A number of bills proposed for the 2024 session would increase liberty for Granite Staters by holding police accountable or by making it more difficult for them to act as tyrants. 

House Bill 1204 would make it a little more difficult for government agents to trespass on private property without a warrant. The bill does not include punishments for government agents who violate it, but it does say that they could only enter secured premises with consent or for emergencies.

Inspection stickers

Proposed by constitutional attorney and veteran legislator Dan Hynes, HB1061 would prohibit police officers from pulling over a driver for the sole reason of the vehicle having no valid inspection sticker. In New Hampshire, the state government requires all vehicles to receive an inspection every year, and the owner must display the official sticker on their windshield. Each year’s sticker has a distinct color, which makes it easy for cops to notice if it’s expired. Currently, cops can pull over a driver for an invalid inspection sticker. This bill would make inspection violations a secondary offense, meaning that the cop could give you a ticket for it, but can’t pull you over unless he has some other reason for the stop. As I’ve explained in many articles, videos, and in my 2022 book Presumed Guilty, the fewer the traffic stops, the better. 

The bill will likely have a public hearing in the Criminal Justice & Public Safety Committee in the coming weeks. Email and call your State Reps and the Committee Reps now to tell them to support this bill!

Nothing to hide?

We have all heard cops and their supporters exclaim that “if you’ve done nothing wrong, you should have nothing to hide!” Two bills proposed by Libertarian-Republican Brandon Phinney would stop many cops in New Hampshire from hiding who they truly are while driving. Together with two Republicans and two Democrats, HB1237 would create a new law, stating that “Any municipal police vehicle purchased on or after January 1, 2025 shall be clearly marked and labeled identifying it as a police vehicle before it may be used by a police officer performing traffic law enforcement.  For purposes of this section, stealth or ghost lettering, wherein the markings are not clearly visible, shall be insufficient to permit the vehicle’s usage in traffic law enforcement.” Many local police departments have unmarked cars or vehicles with black lettering on black paint that they use for traffic enforcements. This would be phased out starting in 2025 if this bill passes. This bill passed the House with an amendment that would allow cops in unmarked cars to make traffic stops if they felt there was an actual danger.

Proposed by Phinney and a Democrat, HB1238 would require that “Each municipal police department shall affix municipal police license plates on all department-owned vehicles.  No police officer shall use any vehicle that does not bear municipal police license plates in the performance of the officer’s official duties.” This bill was killed by the House.

Two libertarian Republicans proposed House Bill 1455, which would legalize “photographing, audio recording, or video recording in any publicly accessible area of any public building or on any public land wherein the state of New Hampshire maintains either exclusive or concurrent jurisdiction.” Unlike most laws, this one would have punishments for government agents who violated it. First time offenders would be fined $2,000 to $10,000 and subsequent offenses would carry at least 30 days in jail. This bill was killed by the House.

Stop resisting?

Liberty Rep. Mike Belcher teamed up with three other porcupines and one Democrat to propose HB1026. Currently, the law says that “A person is guilty of a misdemeanor when the person knowingly or purposely physically interferes with a person recognized to be a law enforcement official, including a probation or parole officer, seeking to effect an arrest or detention of the person or another regardless of whether there is a legal basis for the arrest]. A person is guilty of a class B felony if the act of resisting arrest or detention causes serious bodily injury, as defined in RSA 625:11, VI, to another person.” 

This means that if a cop tries to arrest you for the crime of murdering 34 trillion monkeys by using a banana as a weapon, you currently cannot resist that arrest. If you do, it is a serious crime, and a felony if the cop gets hurt during the struggle. This simple bill would provide an affirmative defense that a person could use if prosecuted for the crime of ‘resisting arrest’, saying that “A legal finding that an arrest was unlawful or unconstitutional shall constitute an affirmative defense to any prosecution under this section.” This bill was killed by the House.

Torture

Two legislators proposed HB1372, which would prohibit government agents from torturing people, which is defined as “an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering, other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions, upon another person within the person’s custody or physical control.” The House killed this bill.

HB1026 and HB1372 public hearing

Cops remain immune

In the 2023 session, four Representatives and one Senator proposed a great bill that would have created a cause of action, allowing people to sue government officials for violating their rights. Currently, qualified immunity protects government officials from lawsuits, but HB647 would have changed that. Unfortunately, the elites in Concord worked hard to kill the bill as quickly as possible. 

Body-camera footage

Representative Dan Hynes proposed another excellent bill that would help shield peaceful people from police officers who may be harmful. The current law says that footage from the body-worn cameras used by cops can’t be shared with anyone outside of law enforcement. As a great lawyer, Hynes proposed HB1021 to ensure that:

“a defendant in a criminal case is entitled to all BWC footage related to the defendant’s case.  The defendant is entitled to copy, share, and display the data unless it involves an interview with a victim of a crime or otherwise violates any individual’s right to privacy.  The state may seek a protective order from the court to prevent dissemination of BWC footage.” State and federal laws relating to discovery and exculpatory evidence likely already require police/prosecutors to turn over all relevant footage to the defendant, but this bill would help ensure that this occurs. Further, in the part of the state law that directs the police to delete any footage that the cameras capture in violation of the rules, Hynes adds a critical exception in his bill: “Evidence that is exculpatory to a criminal defendant shall not be destroyed without a court order and is admissible as evidence in the criminal trial.”

Protect free speech

Noticing that New Hampshire currently has a law that criminalizes free speech, Hynes also proposed HB1025. This bill would simply repeal a small portion of the law that creates crimes for ‘disorderly conduct’. As of today, it is a crime if someone “Directs at another person in a public place obscene, derisive, or offensive words which are likely to provoke a violent reaction on the part of an ordinary person.” This sentence would be repealed if the bill passes. 

Hynes also proposed HB1022, which would largely decriminalize prostitution among consenting adults. The House killed this bill.

The right to trial by jury

Criminal justice expert Jason Gerhard proposed HB1404 to strengthen due process protections for defendants. Currently, NH residents are only entitled to a jury trial if they are facing a year or more of incarceration. Less serious offenses are generally decided by only one judge at the state’s circuit court level. The libertarian legislator’s bill would grant the right to a jury trial to any person who faces a fine of $20 or more, which would include all misdemeanor-level offenses and some violations. The House killed this bill.

This article does not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Liberty Block or any of its members. We welcome all forms of serious feedback and debate.