NH Law About... Hastings Sixty-Day Rule

Introduction to... Hastings Sixty-Day Rule

Updated February 23, 2017.

At one time, the "sixty-day rule" or "Hastings Rule" required that an indictment be brought within sixty days from the date of the arrest of a person accused of a crime. This rule, which is no longer in effect, was set out by the New Hampshire Supreme Court in a case decided in 1980 called State v. Hastings and said that if the state did not bring the indictment within that time, the state would have the burden of proving that the delay beyond sixty days was reasonable. This rule was thought necessary to ensure the promptness and fairness of the criminal process in New Hampshire. However, in a 1992 case, State v. Hughes, the New Hampshire Supreme Court overruled the sixty-day rule from State v. Hastings.

In overruling the case, the judges emphasized that the reasons for the sixty day rule, to ensure the promptness of the indictment in a criminal proceeding, were still valid, but that after the decision in the Hastings case, there had been several changes in the criminal process in New Hampshire. Particularly, there were new procedural protections in place to ensure those accused of serious crimes had prompt indictments. The judges still approved the idea of generally having indictments within sixty days as a goal, but they changed the law because they rejected the arbitrary time limit of sixty days and the burden on the state to show reasonableness of a process that exceeds the sixty day limit.

Why did we write a guide about something that no longer exists? Because even though the sixty-day rule ended years ago, patrons still ask us about it. Outdated legal concepts float around in the ether long after their relevance has passed and can make for challenging reference questions. Fortunately, for this question, we have a current, reliable resource that discusses the sixty day rule: Chapter 21 of Criminal Practice and Procedure by McNamara (see link below).

Please remember that this guide is for information purposes only and is not comprehensive. It is intended as a starting point for research, to illustrate the various sources of the law, and to provide guidance in their use. NH Law About ... is not a substitute for the services of an attorney.  

Read about... Hastings Sixty-Day Rule


Cornell Legal Information Institute. Grand Jury  GO>

Link verified on: February 23, 2017


Criminal practice and procedure / by Richard B. McNamara. New Providence, NJ : LexisNexis Matthew Bender, 2017. 6th ed.   GO>

Link verified on: April 6, 2018

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Read the law about... Hastings Sixty-Day Rule


120 N.H. 454 (1980). State v. Hastings

Link verified on: February 23, 2017

We can see no reason why an indictment should not be brought within sixty days from the date of an arrest. If it is not, it will be the State's burden to demonstrate that the delay has not been unreasonable.   GO>

135 N.H. 413 (1992). State v. Hughes.

Link verified on: February 23, 2017

We find that the sixty-day rule enunciated in Hastings has served its purpose and we see no reason to continue the arbitrary time limitation for indictment. In terminating the sixty-day rule, we do not intend to dilute the spirit of Hastings, and we strongly recommend continued vigilance to protect the right to prompt indictment.   GO>

Find it in a Library ... New Hampshire Reports

Link verified on: May 18, 2018

Find the New Hampshire Reports in libraries throughout the state.   GO>

Learn About New Hampshire Cases: New Hampshire case law consists of the published opinions of the New Hampshire Supreme Court. GO>


New Hampshire Law Library

Link verified on: June 29, 2018

The state's only public law library. Call, email, or visit, we'll be happy to help.   GO>

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