Stand Your Ground / Self-Defense Laws in New Hampshire

New Hampshire is a state with solid if decidedly wordy self-defense statutes, including a stand-your-ground passage. Though they are lengthy, overwrought and difficult to untangle for lay people who are not versed in such language the tale of the tape remains a happy one.

So long as someone is not engaged in criminal activity, is in a place they have a legal right to be, and are fearing for themselves or a third party death or great bodily injury or the imminent commission of certain forcible felonies they are justified in using lethal force defensively with no obligation to retreat.

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But with this said the New Hampshire laws do go on at some length describing exceptions to the above in various circumstances, and as always the precise wording, definitions and language that a state uses to codify their laws is of the utmost importance.

Ignorance of the law is never an excuse for breaking it, and never more so than in the category of use-of-force.

We will provide you an overview of New Hampshire’s stand-your-ground law and other self-defense statutes below, and have included the majority of the relevant passages from the state’s laws at the end of the article.

What You Need to Know

  • New Hampshire allows the use of deadly force in self-defense so long as the defender is using deadly defensive force to stop a threat of death or great bodily harm to themselves or someone else.
  • New Hampshire also allows the use of deadly defensive force to prevent certain forcible felonies, namely home invasion, kidnapping, and forcible sexual assault.
  • There is no duty to retreat from such an encounter so long as a person has a right to be where they are, they are not committing a crime, and were not the initial aggressor.
  • New Hampshire explicitly forbids the use of deadly force in defense of any property (aside from defense of an occupied dwelling) unless the force being exerted against the victim itself entails the risk of death or great bodily injury.

General Provisions

New Hampshire self-defense law, including their stand-your-ground provision, is mercifully pretty cut-and-dry.

So long as you are in any place you have a lawful right to be you may use deadly force to prevent a threat of death or great bodily injury to yourself or to a third-party, or to prevent the commission or imminent commission of a forcible felony.

Lethal force is also usable in defense of occupied property to prevent the perpetration of any forcible felony against the occupants of the property or against what a reasonable person would believe is attempted arson. Simple trespass does not justify use of lethal force.

Note that the law specifically states that lethal force may only be used in defense of property under the same conditions that the use of said defensive force would be justified any other time.

This can make a big difference regarding the presumption of innocence of a defender if someone is not actually in the process of breaking it or attempted illegal entry surreptitiously.

Restrictions

New Hampshire only allows the use of deadly force and response to a threat which would entail a substantial risk of great bodily injury or death. It is also permissible when stopping a forcible felony.

Deadly force may not be used for simple protection of property against theft, unless the act of theft entails a considerable risk of great bodily injury or death as above.

It is also worth mentioning that New Hampshire has a substantial section describing under what conditions is the use of deadly force is not permissible if the defender has other options. Check it out for yourself in 627.4, Paragraph (III).

It is clarified in that same section that the duty to retreat is not mandatory when someone is in a place they have a right to be, but in any instance where the would-be defender is the initial aggressor, is being asked to voluntarily surrender property to which someone else has a legal claim or ordered to comply with a request to stop doing something that they are not obliged to do then the use of force, especially lethal force, is not permitted!

It should go without saying that lethal force may not be used to resist arrest, either. I hope that much would be obvious!

Assessment

New Hampshire is another solid state for defense-minded citizens, and features a no-nonsense stand-your-ground provision that clearly codifies under what circumstances a person might have to attempt a withdrawal instead of fighting for their life.

Mercifully, these situations are highly specialized and typically only encountered in the case that another person has a lawful, legal mandate for their actions. Essentially, so long as you are a good guy or good gal and are the legitimate victim or would be victim of a violent crime you are justified and using lethal force to defend yourself at the instant.

Relevant New Hampshire Use of Force Statutes

*Definitions for the chapter provided at the beginning of this section for convenience.

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.

626:7 Defenses; Affirmative Defenses and Presumptions.

I. When evidence is admitted on a matter declared by this code to be:

(a) A defense, the state must disprove such defense beyond a reasonable doubt; or

(b) An affirmative defense, the defendant has the burden of establishing such defense by a preponderance of the evidence.

II. When this code establishes a presumption with respect to any fact which is an element of an offense, it has the following consequences:

(a) When there is evidence of the facts which give rise to the presumption, the issue of the existence of the presumed fact must be submitted to the jury, unless the court is satisfied that the evidence as a whole clearly negatives the presumed fact; and

(b) When the issue of the existence of the presumed fact is submitted to the jury, the court shall charge that while the presumed fact must, on all the evidence, be proved beyond a reasonable doubt, the law declares that the jury may regard the facts giving rise to the presumption as sufficient evidence of the presumed fact.

626:1 Requirement of a Voluntary Act.

I. A person is not guilty of an offense unless his criminal liability is based on conduct that includes a voluntary act or the voluntary omission to perform an act of which he is physically capable.

II. Possession is a voluntary act if the possessor knowingly procured or received the thing possessed or was aware of his control thereof for a sufficient period to have been able to terminate his possession.

627:1 General Rule.

Conduct which is justifiable under this chapter constitutes a defense to any offense. The fact that such conduct is justifiable shall constitute a complete defense to any civil action based on such conduct.

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.

627:3 Competing Harms.

I. Conduct which the actor believes to be necessary to avoid harm to himself or another is justifiable if the desirability and urgency of avoiding such harm outweigh, according to ordinary standards of reasonableness, the harm sought to be prevented by the statute defining the offense charged. The desirability and urgency of such conduct may not rest upon considerations pertaining to the morality and advisability of such statute, either in its general or particular application.

II. When the actor was reckless or negligent in bringing about the circumstances requiring a choice of harms or in appraising the necessity of his conduct, the justification provided in paragraph I does not apply in a prosecution for any offense for which recklessness or negligence, as the case may be, suffices to establish criminal liability.

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.

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