Stand Your Ground/Castle Doctrine

Citizens Count Editor

New Hampshire currently has a “stand your ground" law. This law regulates when and where New Hampshire citizens can use deadly force in self-defense. 

New Hampshire law allows the use of deadly force against another person in the following situations:

  • When a person is about to use deadly force against you or someone else; 
  • If a person is likely to use unlawful force while committing a burglary;
  • If a person is in the process of committing a kidnapping or forcible sex act;
  • If a person is likely to use unlawful force while committing a felony against someone in their own home or on the surrounding property. 

“Stand your ground” laws allow citizens to use deadly force in these four situations not just inside their home, but wherever they have a legal right to be. 

Learn more about other New Hampshire firearms laws 

Duty to retreat: “stand your ground” vs. “castle doctrine”

Before New Hampshire’s “stand your ground” law passed in 2011, New Hampshire had a more limited “castle doctrine” law. 

The difference between “stand your ground” and “castle doctrine” laws lies in when and where people have a “duty to retreat”. The “duty to retreat” is a legal requirement to not use deadly force in self-defense if you and anyone else at risk could safely retreat from the situation. 

States with “castle doctrine” laws require people to try to retreat before resorting to deadly force unless they’re within their own homes.  

On the other hand, New Hampshire’s “stand your ground” law allows the use of deadly force without trying to retreat anywhere a person has a legal right to be. That includes streets, shops or parking lots. 

Self-defense laws in other states

A majority—30 states—have “stand your ground” laws. However, these laws vary in their details and do not all cover the same exact situations.

New Hampshire is the only New England state with a “stand your ground” law. Most other New England states have “castle doctrine” laws. In those states, citizens have a duty to retreat before using deadly force in public places.  

“Stand your ground” controversies

There have been some moves in New Hampshire to expand the “stand your ground” law, permitting citizens to defend themselves more broadly. 

On the other hand, others have tried to remove “stand your ground” from the books to return New Hampshire to being a “castle doctrine” state. In 2013, an effort to repeal the stand your ground law failed in the Senate. 

PROS & CONS

"For" Position

By Citizens Count Editor

“New Hampshire should keep or strengthen its stand your ground law.”

  • Residents have a right to defend themselves from attack anywhere. A citizen should not be required to retreat from a place they have a legal right to be.   
  • Empowering citizens to defend themselves with lethal force may deter criminals. Police cannot be everywhere, and criminals may think twice about threatening a victim if they can fight back.
  • The law should clearly defend the right of a victim to self-defense, so in a life-threatening situation a victim does not hesitate or wonder if they are acting within the law.
  • “Stand your ground” laws strongly shield the victim of a crime from liability, meaning they cannot be sued by their criminal attacker. These laws also stop the state from prosecuting a victim who may have made a difficult decision to defend themselves while under stress.

"Against" Position

By Citizens Count Editor

“New Hampshire should return to a castle doctrine law.”

  • Because citizens can use deadly force when they “reasonably perceive” a threat, whether or not that threat ultimately turns out to be genuine, these laws are sometimes called "shoot first” or “get away with murder” laws. 
  • “Stand your ground” laws require untrained civilians to make difficult, stressful decisions about using deadly force against an attacker. Even trained law enforcement officers have difficulty making these decisions. 
  • Even though these laws are made to help citizens defend themselves, some studies show that these laws may increase murder rates.  
  • According to one study, “stand your ground” laws are enforced differently based on the race of the shooter and victim. White shooters are far more likely to be acquitted of shooting victims of color than the other way around. 

LEGISLATIVE HISTORY

Killed in the House

Expands the allowable use of physical force for self-defense within a person's home to cover actions taken against someone who is likely to use unlawful force while committing a felony against any person on the property.

Interim Study

Allows the use of deadly force if a person is aiding or abetting a person committing kidnapping or sexual assault.

Killed in the House

Makes some changes to the definitions in the law governing the use of deadly force. For example, this bill defines "residence" as "a dwelling in which a person resides either temporarily or permanently or is visiting as an invited guest."

Killed in the House

Changes the definition of deadly force to include only acts that actually result in death or permanent loss or impairment of any part of the body. The current definition of deadly force includes acts with the intent or risk of serious injury, such as firing a firearm in the direction of another person.

Tabled in the Senate

Limits the use of deadly force, repealing "Stand Your Ground" in favor of the "Castle Doctrine." Under this bill victims could use deadly force within their homes without retreating, but anywhere else they would have to attempt retreat before resorting to deadly force.

Veto Overridden

Expands the use of deadly force, adding "Stand Your Ground" to the "Castle Doctrine." Under this bill victims could use deadly force without retreating, anywhere the victim has the right to be.

Should NH repeal "stand your ground" and return to the castle doctrine?

FOR
REPRESENTATIVES

Comments

JR Hoell
- Dunbarton, NH

Fri, 08/30/2019 - 7:54pm

The expectation that the police will be there to protect you is both faulty and unrealistic. First SCOTUS has ruled that the police have no duty to protect. Second, the police cannot be everywhere, so there is some response time based purely on the distance between you and the nearest police officer.
When seconds count, the police are minutes away

Alan Fraize
- Deerfield

Fri, 08/30/2019 - 9:45am

I Think we should put in a law that an politician that try's to subvert the law an Constitution should be jail for not less then 15 years an fined not less then 100.000.00

KEN BOECK
- NEWPORT

Thu, 08/29/2019 - 7:27pm

I am a firm believer in the second amendment as well as the Stand your ground law! I could never walk away or retreat if I knew someone was in danger.

Justin Keith
- New Durham

Tue, 09/11/2018 - 10:52am

I don't think that those in a free society should completely delegate the responsibility for their safety and the safety of others to the police.

Daniel Perrinez
- Manchester

Fri, 02/23/2018 - 12:06pm

Criminals don't follow laws.
Honest people have the right to protect themselves and others and deserve the support of their neighbors and state.

I have faith in the legal system to sort out the few cases that fall in a grey area.

Kris Roberts
- Keene

Fri, 07/19/2013 - 12:00am

It is time to honest about the Martin-Zimmerman case.

Many of the so-called political leaders, so-call civil-rights leaders, and so-call media leaders have been two-sided about the whole affair. If the president had a son he wouldn’t look like Trayvon: He would be in a suit attending one of Washington, D.C., elite schools.

For many of the people of color they have very little to fear from the either the police or their fellow members of color because they don’t live near them, they don’t send their children to the same schools. Their children have expectations of success.  And for the most part they rarely see the garbage man, the mail, the nanny, the bus driver, etc., all highly likely to be a person of color.

Yes, they walk by everyday but they are invisible, or worthy of a single glare.  Let’s get real: It isn’t about race it is about social-economic status.  

As Americans we like to believe that there is no such thing as class in America. We fear the word class so much we would rather be viewed as a racist nation than a nation of classes.

While it is not a national tragedy like the president, numerous politicians, so-call civil right leaders such as Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, and others, and especially the mass media have repeatedly stated, Trayvon Martin’s death is a family tragedy. A tragedy that will affect the Martin family for decades to come.

As far as a national tragedy, Trayvon Martin will be quickly and quietly forgotten after a few news cycles or when his death no longer provides political or financial benefit. National tragedies make the history books I don’t believe either Martin or Zimmerman will receive a single line. 
 

Race may have played a part in the death of Mr. Martin.  However, before one talks about race, it is far more important to think about culture. Culture is far more important than race when it comes to a person’s mindset, how that person thinks.

Despite what we may choose to believe it is the race of the mother that instills the culture in the child. A child adopted from China by a white American family may be Asian racially but white culturally. I, growing up in an all-white family and all-white community, which makes me culturally white regardless if the world views me as a black man.

I call Mr. Martin a man because there are 17 and 18 year old men and women wearing the uniform of our nation. We as a nation shouldn’t have the right to call a 17-year-old Marine a man, and then another 17-year-old a child. If all 17-year-olds are children then as a nation we have a much deeper moral problem.

There is no question in my mind that misjudgment by both Mr. Zimmerman and Mr. Martin played the most damaging role in the whole event. It has often been said that before every tragedy there was at least one or two moments that could have prevented or changed the outcome.

I don’t believe that Mr. Zimmerman ever intended to shoot Mr. Martin. But the fact that he did doesn’t make it right. I don’t believe that Mr. Martin ever intended to get into a fight with Mr. Zimmerman but that fact he did doesn’t make it right.  Each man did what they believed was right and their lives were changed forever. Sometimes we can be dead right. Being a man means excising proper judgment. 
 

What I find totally disgusting about the whole situation is that the media has done everything possible to incite protests and riots. I can’t recall the number of talk show guests stated that if Mr. Zimmerman was found not guilty that there would be rioting in the streets all across America.

What about Mr. Zimmerman’s right to a fair trial? What about the pressure on the jury? What jury wanted to be compared to the aftermath of the O.J. jury? What about the fact; how seeing blacks on TV and the internet protesting and rioting during the work day could play into some of the false and negative stereotypes some Americans have about blacks?

I wonder how members of the media will be able to live with themselves if someone is killed, suffers a life changing injury, their business is destroyed, etc., as a result of their inspire, come-on lets be real; desire to either extend the Martin-Zimmerman story or even create more stories. What happened to the days when the job of the media was to report the news not create the news for their own personal benefit or profit?

Many of today’s so-called civil-rights leaders; most who couldn’t find a seat in a stadium of well-respected civil-rights leaders such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Jackie Robinson, Booker T. Washington, Medgar Evers, Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Thurgood Marshall, Dr. Woodard Carter, Shirley Chisholm to name a few. I don’t see today’s so-called civil-rights leaders risking their lives like the men and women previously mentioned.  I don’t see them staying in a flea-bag motel in the dangerous sides of town.

No, it appears to me every time someone like Al Sharpton appears on TV or in public with his expensive suits and trappings which costs more than the average full-time black worker earns a week, he benefits. Leadership isn’t about flying in and flying out. Leadership means accepting the fact that as a leader you risk getting shot at.

My question for all the politicians, so-called civil-rights leaders, the media where are the stories about the hardworking black mothers working numerous jobs while their children attend inner cities schools that are just drop-out factories? Research presented in Atlantic Magazine has shown that many black children have his or her highest IQ on the first day of public school and he or she loses IQ points the longer they stay in public school.

Where are the stories as Will Smith stated, “There’s so much negative imagery of black fatherhood. I’ve got tons of friends that are doing the right thing by their kids, and doing the right thing as a father and how come that’s not as newsworthy?”
 

What about the fact that research has shown that high quality teachers can advances a child up to 1.5 years every year, while a substandard teacher advances a child about 0.5 years per school years.  That is why so many black childfen are so far behind by 3rd grade and are just waiting for age 16 by 8th grade.
 
I think the answer lies in the words of Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, “The liberals in the House strongly resemble liberals I have known through the last two decades in the civil-rights conflict. When it comes time to show on which side they will be counted, they excuse themselves.” 
 
How do we address this problem? We address it in a number of ways, we advance these children and place them on the honor roll even if they are 3 or more years behind in reading and writing.  We often do whatever we can to guarantee that they will have very few opportunities to succeed. 
 

A child's dreams are worthless if he or she doesn’t have the basic skills to work toward them. If you can’t read at least a 12th grade level, if you can’t write, if you haven’t been exposed to the wide spectrum of knowledge and experiences such as libraries, museums, travel one’s dreams quickly vanish. While many a black child’s dream has been end by a bullet far more have been destroyed by our nation’s indifferent.

Last year I went to Tuskegee Institute. In the center of the campus there is a statue of a black man educating his fellow black man, and through education that man is not only freed but lifts himself up from slavery. Every year in many inner-cities across America tens of thousands of black children are born into economy slavery. People will fight to the death if you try to put them into chains. If you make them dependent on the system they will take their frustrations out on each other.

In the words of Tracy Chapman’s song “Bang, Bang.”

“You go and give him a gun so he feel mighty, he feels strong.  Give him drugs and give him candy anything to make him happy and he won’t ever come for us, if he preys only on his neighbors. Brothers sisters and friends we’ll consider it a favor we’ll consider justice done.”

That is the civil-rights crime here. That is the issue that should be addressed. That is the issue that needs to be addressed.

It is a moral crime whenever we condemn children of color, any child in America to the bottom rungs of society, if lucky condemning them to low-skilled, low-paying jobs, food stamps, worse a life of jail, no job, drugs, or addiction. That is the civil-rights issue.

We as a society have such low expectations of our children of color and poor hard working white families, so we decided “not to waste public funds on their education” and we are surprised when they live down to the expectations we have for them.

John Sullivan
- Methuen

Fri, 03/30/2012 - 11:09pm

If you're reading this, chances are you're a smirking, money-grubbing member of an elite cabal conspiring to preserve a permanent underclass of worker bees to do your bidding, or you're a shiftless layabout waiting for a generous check from the taxpayers to help feed your vices.

Or you're a person of questionable morals too ready to sashay into a clinic to blithely execute your baby, or you're a regressive knuckle dragger who believes women should only remove their burqas when it's time to scrub the kitchen floor.

Or you're a bigoted thug looking to return this state and nation to the days of white, Colonial-era hegemony, or you're a malevolent interloper attempting to rend the fabric of decent society.

Or none of these things is true. You're just a human being trying his or her best to live a good life and do right by your kids or your pets or your fellow citizens.

Earlier today I agreed to post an item on the Live Free or Die Alliance's Facebook page announcing a Manchester march in honor of Trayvon Martin, a dead black teenager at the center of a headline-grabbing case in Florida. The case raises legitimate questions about the kind of "stand your ground" laws that govern more than half the states in this union, including New Hampshire.

It didn't take long before I regretted the decision.

Within minutes, my worst fears had come to fruition. Commenters were either accusing their fellow citizens of racism, or chastising them for simply "playing the race card." What should have been a rally for the American spirit of the rule of law and the judging of a person, not on the color of his or her skin, but on the content of his or her character, instead became a perfect illustration of our worst instincts as people.

Sure, that makes us human, but it also makes us weak. But there's good news: Humans have the ability to learn from their mistakes. Humans are actually pretty strong. I truly believe this.

Regardless of the issue at hand, we would all do well to keep in mind that pejoratives negate the possibility of persuasion, and that anger too often is the enemy of enlightenment.

We're better than that.

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Issue Status

Rep. Max Abramson proposed legislation that expands the allowable use of physical force within a person's home. The House killed that bill in March.

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