Stand Your Ground/Castle Doctrine
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.
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
At least 25 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.
“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.
“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.