NH Self Defense Statute

In the wake of the verdict in the George Zimmerman case, it makes sense to examine New Hampshire’s self defense law. In 2011 the New Hampshire Legislature voted to expand the so-called “Castle Doctrine” to allow people to use deadly force to protect themselves in public spaces. This law is codified in RSA 627:4.

Prior to 2011, under New Hampshire law, one could use deadly force upon another in certain circumstances. One condition of the use of deadly force in self defense was that the person protecting himself or herself knew that he or she could not, with complete safety, retreat from the encounter unless (1) he or she was in his or her dwelling or its curtilage and (2) he or she was not the initial aggressor. This has been called the “Castle Doctrine.”

In 2011 the “Castle Doctrine” was expanded in New Hampshire to public places. The law currently states, in relevant part: “A person is not justified in using deadly force on another to defend himself or herself or a third person from deadly force by the other if he or she knows that he or she and the third person can, with complete safety: (a) Retreat from the encounter, except that he or she is not required to retreat if he or she is within his or her dwelling, its curtilage, or anywhere he or she has a right to be, and was not the initial aggressor…”. See RSA 627:4(III)(a) (emphasis added). The addition of the language “or anywhere he or she has a right to be” expands the “Castle Doctrine” to public space. By enacting this “Stand Your Ground” concept of self defense New Hampshire has joined Florida and approximately 21 other states in embracing this broad sense of self defense.

In 2013 the New Hampshire Legislature voted 19-5 to table House Bill 135 that would have repealed the “Stand Your Ground” portion of New Hampshire’s self defense law. It remains to be seen what will happen in the wake of the Zimmerman verdict.

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