Police Commission told accused poor will have access to lawyers before arraignment

LACONIA — City Prosecutor Jim Sawyer told the Police Commission yesterday that there are some circuit court rules changes that would shorten the time police have to file a criminal complaint with the court.
He said police now have about 30 days to file complaints for Class A misdemeanors and felonies but Laconia is fairly quick with their complaint filings and averages about three weeks.
Sawyer said the rule would be consistent with another that says all driving while intoxicated arrests complaints must be filed within 14 days of the arrest.
Responding to a question from Commission Chair Warren Clement, Chief Chris Adams said the rules change wouldn't cost the city any money.
Sawyer also said that because of a recent Supreme Court, ruling all people charged with a Class A misdemeanor or a felony must be told at the time of their arrest that they are entitled to apply for a court-appointed lawyer.
He said this was to balance the rights of people with the means to hire a lawyer with people who can't afford one but must wait until their arraignment for the court to appoint one.
Unless a person is incarcerated on cash bail immediately after their arrest, he said it can take up to four weeks to be arraigned and during that time, many have no access to a lawyer.
Sawyer said the Laconia Court has a public defender there for all arraignments but this isn't always the case in other New Hampshire circuit courts.
In other business, Capt. Bill Clary said the Police Department will finish the fiscal year under budget but noted some expense lines were overspent — especially the overtime and some maintenance lines.
He noted that about 30 percent of Laconia's overtime budget is spent on police officers' court time and the balance is split between filling staffing vacancies and criminal investigations.
By way of example, he noted that following the recent homicide on McGrath Street, detectives were working around the clock for three days.
He also said detectives have been catching up on their criminal investigations since Motorcycle Week ended.
Adams noted that while crimes against property and people were down so far this year, crimes against society, which includes drug crimes, have increased as have the number of total arrests.