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State v. Paige

Supreme Court of New Hampshire

August 15, 2017

THE STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE
v.
TRAVIS C. PAIGE

          Submitted: June 13, 2017

         Grafton

          Ann M. Rice, deputy attorney general (Sean P. Gill, assistant attorney general, on the memorandum of law), for the State.

          Thomas Barnard, senior assistant appellate defender, of Concord, on the brief, for the defendant.

          LYNN, J.

         The defendant, Travis C. Paige, appeals a ruling of the Superior Court (Bornstein, J.) concluding that his reckless conduct convictions were class A misdemeanors and sentencing him accordingly. See RSA 631:3 (2016); RSA 625:9, IV(c) (2016). We affirm.

         I

         The pertinent facts are as follows. On September 3, 2015, the defendant led police on a high-speed vehicle chase in Grafton County between Bethlehem and Bath. Throughout the chase, the defendant drove at speeds in excess of 100 miles per hour to evade police. The defendant also disregarded stop signs and nearly struck a cyclist and a minivan. Eventually, the defendant lost control of the vehicle after passing through a covered bridge and crashed into a ditch. The vehicle came to rest on the passenger side. Leaving his girlfriend in the passenger seat of the vehicle, the defendant climbed out of the driver's side window and fled on foot into the woods. The police officer on scene chose not to pursue the defendant, opting instead to help the defendant's girlfriend get out of the car, which was smoking. The defendant was arrested the next morning.

         In November, the defendant was indicted on three counts of felony reckless conduct with a deadly weapon.[1] Ordinarily, reckless conduct is an unspecified misdemeanor. See RSA 631:3. However, it becomes a class B felony when a deadly weapon is used in the commission of the offense. See id.; RSA 625:11, V (2016). The defendant also was charged by informations with two misdemeanor offenses, one alleging that he disobeyed a police officer, and the other alleging that he resisted arrest. See RSA 265:4 (2014); RSA 642:2 (2016). In accordance with RSA 625:9, IV(c)(2), the State filed notice at or before the defendant's arraignment that it was electing to prosecute both misdemeanor offenses as class A misdemeanors.

         The defendant was tried by jury in April 2016. In its jury instructions, the trial court instructed the jury on the elements of felony reckless conduct and, over the State's objection, on the elements of the lesser-included misdemeanor reckless conduct offense. The jury acquitted the defendant of all three felony reckless conduct charges, but convicted him of three counts of misdemeanor reckless conduct. The jury also convicted the defendant of resisting arrest and disobeying an officer.

         At sentencing, the trial court ruled that the lesser-included reckless conduct offenses carried class A misdemeanor penalties. For the charges of resisting arrest and disobeying an officer, the court sentenced the defendant to consecutive twelve-month terms of incarceration. For each of the misdemeanor reckless conduct convictions, it imposed suspended twelve-month sentences that were concurrent with each other but consecutive to the stand committed sentences. This appeal followed.

         II

         On appeal, the defendant argues that, pursuant to RSA 625:9, IV(c), his misdemeanor reckless conduct convictions constituted class B misdemeanors and that the court erred in sentencing him on those charges as though they were class A misdemeanor offenses. Specifically, he contends that both the text and the legislative history of RSA 625:9, IV(c) indicate that the statute applies to ...


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