Pepper Spray Laws – New Hampshire

New Hampshire is a state with clearly codified laws concerning self-defense sprays, and takes pains to define them for use throughout the state statutes.

Happily, there are not many restrictions concerning them in the state, and citizens may possess any typical formulation or any quantity that they desire so long as it is only for and only used in self-defense. The state also spells out specific criminal misuse of self-defense sprays, and the penalties for doing so.

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Any citizen will find it easy to obtain, possess and carry pepper spray or other defensive sprays in the state of New Hampshire.

We will dig into New Hampshire’s specific statutes that pertain to pepper spray in the rest of this article, and you can find the exact text of the relevant statutes at the end.

Fast Facts

  • New Hampshire classifies pepper and other defensive sprays as “aerosol self-defense spray weapons” so long as they are only designed for temporary immobilization or incapacitation of a person. These weapons are entirely legal for civilian use.
  • Citizens in New Hampshire may carry any size self-defense spray they choose. There are no restrictions on capacity.
  • New Hampshire has specific statutes concerning the criminal use of aerosol self-defense spray weapons. See discussion and statutes below.

Overview

New Hampshire is definitely a friendly state for folks who would prefer to carry pepper spray or tear gas sprays for self-defense, though it is also a state that has gone a little farther to codify such devices, and they have even included a few specific criminal statutes concerning the misuse of them.

That isn’t going to be a big deal for the vast majority of our readership, and the good news is that New Hampshire spares citizens any tedious regulations concerning formula or capacity.

First things first, New Hampshire defines any self-defense spray, be it legitimate pepper spray or synthetic tear gas as an “aerosol self-defense spray weapon”.

These weapons are specifically defined as any “aerosol self-defense spray weapon which is designed to immobilize or incapacitate a person temporarily”.

Seems redundant, but so far, so good; As long as your defense spray is not some formula or chemical which will inflict serious or permanent injuries you won’t have any issues. Be sure you stick to commonly available, high-quality defense sprays from the usual manufacturers for extra assurance.

More good news: New Hampshire does not impose any tedious and overbearing restriction on capacity concerning civilian self-defense sprays, so you may carry any size dispenser you choose, from a slender key ring model to a burly canister suitable for dealing with multiple opponents.

Also, quite notably, New Hampshire has a statute governing the criminal use of aerosol self-defense spray weapons. Paraphrased, the statute states that any person who uses an aerosol self-defense spray weapon on a police officer or any other person with the intent to commit a crime is guilty of a crime.

The charges for doing so are variable, as using pepper spray on someone with the intent to commit a misdemeanor will get you a misdemeanor charge. Doing the same thing with the intent to commit a felony will get you a felony charge.

Conclusion

New Hampshire is a permissible state when it comes to civilian carry of pepper and other defensive sprays.

The state has no restrictions on formulation, or quantity carried, but is otherwise notable for its precise definition of defense sprays in the state statutes, and also for specific statutes governing criminal misuse of said sprays.

Don’t let this scare you, though, New Hampshire is definitely friendly towards these devices for civilian self defense.

Relevant State Statutes

159:20 Self-Defense Weapons Defined.

In this subdivision:

I. “Electronic defense weapon” means an electronically activated non-lethal device which is designed for or capable of producing an electrical charge of sufficient magnitude to immobilize or incapacitate a person temporarily.

II. “Aerosol self-defense spray weapon” means any aerosol self-defense spray weapon which is designed to immobilize or incapacitate a person temporarily.


159:23 Criminal Use of Electronic Defense or Aerosol Self-Defense Spray Weapons.

I. Any person who uses an electronic defense or aerosol self-defense spray weapon on a law enforcement officer or another person with intent to commit a crime punishable as a misdemeanor shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

II. Any person who uses an electronic defense or aerosol self-defense spray weapon on a law enforcement officer or another person with intent to commit a crime punishable as a felony shall be guilty of a class B felony.

III. Neither the whole nor any part of a sentence of imprisonment imposed for a violation of this section shall be served concurrently with any other term of imprisonment.


627:1-a Civil Immunity.

A person who uses force in self-protection or in the protection of other persons pursuant to RSA 627:4, in the protection of premises and property pursuant to RSA 627:7 and 627:8, in law enforcement pursuant to RSA 627:5, or in the care or welfare of a minor pursuant to RSA 627:6, is justified in using such force and shall be immune from civil liability for personal injuries sustained by a perpetrator which were caused by the acts or omissions of the person as a result of the use of force. In a civil action initiated by or on behalf of a perpetrator against the person, the court shall award the person reasonable attorney’s fees, and costs, including but not limited to, expert witness fees, court costs, and compensation for loss of income.


627:4 Physical Force in Defense of a Person.

I. A person is justified in using non-deadly force upon another person in order to defend himself or a third person from what he reasonably believes to be the imminent use of unlawful, non-deadly force by such other person, and he may use a degree of such force which he reasonably believes to be necessary for such purpose. However, such force is not justifiable if:

(a) With a purpose to cause physical harm to another person, he provoked the use of unlawful, non-deadly force by such other person; or

(b) He was the initial aggressor, unless after such aggression he withdraws from the encounter and effectively communicates to such other person his intent to do so, but the latter notwithstanding continues the use or threat of unlawful, non-deadly force; or

(c) The force involved was the product of a combat by agreement not authorized by law.

II. A person is justified in using deadly force upon another person when he reasonably believes that such other person:

(a) Is about to use unlawful, deadly force against the actor or a third person;

(b) Is likely to use any unlawful force against a person present while committing or attempting to commit a burglary;

(c) Is committing or about to commit kidnapping or a forcible sex offense; or

(d) Is likely to use any unlawful force in the commission of a felony against the actor within such actor’s dwelling or its curtilage.

II-a. A person who responds to a threat which would be considered by a reasonable person as likely to cause serious bodily injury or death to the person or to another by displaying a firearm or other means of self-defense with the intent to warn away the person making the threat shall not have committed a criminal act.

III. 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; or

(b) Surrender property to a person asserting a claim of right thereto; or

(c) Comply with a demand that he or she abstain from performing an act which he or she is not obliged to perform; nor is the use of deadly force justifiable when, with the purpose of causing death or serious bodily harm, the person has provoked the use of force against himself or herself in the same encounter; or

(d) If he or she is a law enforcement officer or a private person assisting the officer at the officer’s direction and was acting pursuant to RSA 627:5, the person need not retreat.


627:7 Use of Force in Defense of Premises.

A person in possession or control of premises or a person who is licensed or privileged to be thereon is justified in using non-deadly force upon another when and to the extent that he reasonably believes it necessary to prevent or terminate the commission of a criminal trespass by such other in or upon such premises, but he may use deadly force under such circumstances only in defense of a person as prescribed in RSA 627:4 or when he reasonably believes it necessary to prevent an attempt by the trespasser to commit arson.


627:8 Use of Force in Property Offenses.

A person is justified in using force upon another when and to the extent that he reasonably believes it necessary to prevent what is or reasonably appears to be an unlawful taking of his property, or criminal mischief, or to retake his property immediately following its taking; but he may use deadly force under such circumstances only in defense of a person as prescribed in RSA 627:4.


627:9 Definitions.

As used in this chapter:

I. “Curtilage” means those outbuildings which are proximately, directly and intimately connected with a dwelling, together with all the land or grounds surrounding the dwelling such as are necessary, convenient, and habitually used for domestic purposes.

II. “Deadly force” means any assault or confinement which the actor commits with the purpose of causing or which he knows to create a substantial risk of causing death or serious bodily injury. Purposely firing a firearm capable of causing serious bodily injury or death in the direction of another person or at a vehicle in which another is believed to be constitutes deadly force.

III. “Dwelling” means any building, structure, vehicle, boat or other place adapted for overnight accommodation of persons, or sections of any place similarly adapted. It is immaterial whether a person is actually present.

IV. “Non-deadly force” means any assault or confinement which does not constitute deadly force. The act of producing or displaying a weapon shall constitute non-deadly force.


631:2 Second Degree Assault.

I. A person is guilty of a class B felony if he or she:

(a) Knowingly or recklessly causes serious bodily injury to another; or

(b) Recklessly causes bodily injury to another by means of a deadly weapon, except that if the deadly weapon is a firearm, he or she shall be sentenced in accordance with RSA 651:2, II-g; or

(c) Recklessly causes bodily injury to another under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life; or

(d) Purposely or knowingly causes bodily injury to a child under 13 years of age; or

(e) Recklessly or negligently causes injury to another resulting in miscarriage or stillbirth; or

(f) Purposely or knowingly engages in the strangulation of another.

(…)

III. (a) Upon proof that the victim and defendant were intimate partners or family or household members, as those terms are defined in RSA 631:2-b, III, a conviction under this section shall be recorded as “second degree assault-domestic violence.”

(b) In addition to any other penalty authorized by law, the court shall levy a fine of $50 for each conviction recorded as “second degree assault-domestic violence” under this paragraph. The court shall not reduce or suspend any sentence or the payment of any fine imposed under this paragraph and no fine imposed under this paragraph shall be subject to an additional penalty assessment. If the court determines that the defendant is unable to pay the fine on the date imposed, the court may defer payment or order periodic payments thereof. The clerk shall forward all fines collected under this paragraph to the department of health and human services for the purposes of RSA 173-B:15. The provisions of RSA 618:8 and RSA 618:9 shall not apply to a fine imposed under this paragraph.


631:2-a Simple Assault.

I. A person is guilty of simple assault if he:

(a) Purposely or knowingly causes bodily injury or unprivileged physical contact to another; or

(b) Recklessly causes bodily injury to another; or

(c) Negligently causes bodily injury to another by means of a deadly weapon.

II. Simple assault is a misdemeanor unless committed in a fight entered into by mutual consent, in which case it is a violation.

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