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 NH stand your ground law 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 NH stand your ground law.

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In 2013 the New Hampshire Legislature voted 19-5 to table House Bill 135 that would have repealed the “Stand Your Ground” portion of New Hampshire’s self defense law.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.

8 Responses

  1. I fully support the right to defend oneself. I would sincerely try to avoid the confrontation or threat, but would find it impractical to retreat if accosted or threatened.

  2. Read the RGA it doesn’t authorize deadly force, it removes the obligation to retreat. Deadly force is not allowed unless an equal level of force is brought against you.

    1. Disparity of force can justify the use of deadly force to defend yourself even if the attacker does not have a weapon: adult vs child, big vs small, strong vs frail, multiple attackers, etc.

  3. hi my Nane is Andrew . and I need some question answered.
    first of all i’m party disabled .
    and i got in to it with my sep doather .a few week ago .
    i was defending my self . now im going to court over it .
    im looking at a feliony recored , but my question is this
    my step doather swug at me . as she past around me .i groued her under the arm and her back faceing me . and i grobe my other arm . and pulled her in to my chest. just to stop her from hitting me . now she hite me i just grabe her and healed her . but know i am face charges . can some one tell me what my rights are . here .
    like i sead im disabied . here s my cell 603-506-8086..

  4. I have a hypothetical question, which is lead by a hypothetical scenario. Lets say an intruder has just entered my home, and he’s armed with a gun. I yell at him to either leave or drop the weapon and stay where he is. I call the police and he starts moving toward me. Because he is armed, and he isn’t obeying my orders, would I legally be able to use a bow to incapacitate his foot? I understand you can’t hit any lethal areas like the head or abdominal area, but what of his foot?

  5. We can’t dispense legal advice online but we an answer a hypothetical fact situation. In reviewing the article, and applying it to the situation posed, it would seem the homeowner could use deadly force against the intruder because the intruder is threatening imminent deadly force against the homeowner, and the homeowner can’t retreat (and would have no obligation to do so anyway because they are in their own home). As a practical matter, we recommend not using self-defense unless it appears to be the only way to stop the violence. A police officer, judge, or jury after the fact will review the evidence, and may not think the force was truly self-defense.

  6. Let’s say a person was driving and another party decided they didn’t like your driving and tried to make you crash into them by slamming on the brakes at 45 mph then chased that person while trying to run them off the road? Does the party being forced from the roadway have to stop and get out before defending themselves? It’s a scary situation especially when there are more people in the aggressors vehicle than the driver trying to get away.
    Basically does this type of scenario merit the stand your ground law?

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