Back in November of 2008 a Kensington, NH man was walking down the street in Portsmouth, NH around midnight when he became alarmed at two suspicious individuals following him. Fearing for his safety, the man opened a knife, spun around, held the knife at his side, and demanded to know what the two people following him wanted.
Sounds completely justifiable, doesn’t it?
Unfortunately for the fellow involved, the the two individuals were plainclothes NH Liquor Enforcement officers. Immediately after hearing the two people identify themselves as police the man closed the knife. (A risky thing to do, considering a would-be attacker could falsely claim to be law enforcement to get someone to become docile.)
Sadly, he was arrested, tried, and convicted of criminal threatening. A result that I find completely outrageous. This man was not harming anyone and he simply was frightened for his safety. As I mentioned in my previous blog about state violence, you have no right to defend yourself against state agents… and in this case, no right to defend yourself against people posing a threat even if you do not know they’re state agents.
A blogger on the Say Anything Blog said in reference to this story “Funny that something like this would happen in a state where the motto is “Live Free or Die.””
Guess what? The legislature took steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again.
The law which justifies the use of force to defend yourself or a third person was amended to read as follows:
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.
This particular law change took effect five months ago. It is a shame that the legislature had to specifically codify this to make sure another person is not made a criminal for simply trying to protect their safety from what could easily be perceived as an imminent threat.
This legislative session has another potential positive change on the horizon for peaceful people who simply want to protect themselves. The change has to do with this portion of the self-defense law:
III. A person is not justified in using deadly force on another to defend himself or a third person from deadly force by the other if he knows that he and the third person can, with complete safety:
(a) Retreat from the encounter, except that he is not required to retreat if he is within his dwelling or its curtilage and was not the initial aggressor; or
Under present New Hampshire law, if you are armed and are located somewhere other than on your own property, if someone threatens you with deadly force and the possibility exists that you could have retreated before using your firearm or knife, you’re open to be charged with a serious crime for trying to defend yourself.
I think it is a bit asinine to require someone to worry about whether or not they’re going to spend the rest of their life in prison while they’re worrying about turning to run when someone is coming at them with a knife. The politicians who oppose this law change attempt to say that this law authorizes the use of deadly force in more circumstances then it does now, like a simple fist-fight. Complete hyperbole.
The law change simply means you wont have to turn and run, risking your safety, while you are threatened with deadly force.
The law has passed the NH House 270-92 and is in now in the Senate.
With self-defense rights and firearm rights expanding in New Hampshire, would-be criminals better think twice.