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New Hampshire Supreme Court Reverses Dismissal of Indictments against Prisoner for Conduct Exposing Corrections Employee to Bodily Substances

By Derek Gilna

In a November 30 decision, the New Hampshire Supreme Court reversed a dismissal of indictments against Timothy Spade, a prisoner at the Hillsborough County House of Correction that charged him with several counts of aggravated assault under RSA 642:9,11, which prohibits any purposeful expulsion of urine or feces, done with the intent to "harass, threaten, or alarm."

The Superior Court had held that the language of the statutory phrase "come in contact with" was ambiguous as to the nature of contact in order to charge a person, interpreting it as requiring the substances to be thrown at or on corrections personnel. The Supreme Court reversed on appeal, finding that the "title of the legislation itself, described as an act 'making it a felony for inmates to harass corrections personnel and others by propelling bodily fluids,' reveals an intent to punish inmates who harass corrections department and law enforcement employees."

The dissent reasoned that the statute in questions "does not readily resolve whether merely causing a department of corrections employee to clean up a defendant's bodily fluids is sufficient to satisfy the 'contact' element of the statute" agreeing with the trial court, that "to be guilty of aggravated assault, the throwing or expelling... must have been the direct means of causing the contact..." State of New Hampshire v. Spade, 13 A. 3d 855 (NH: Supreme Court 2010).

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Related legal case

State of New Hampshire v. Spade