Expanded and Expanding Self-Defense Rights in NH

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.

The text of the law is here.  The docket for the bill is here.

With self-defense rights and firearm rights expanding in New Hampshire, would-be criminals better think twice.

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9 Comments

  1. The nice thing about open carrying is that you don't have to brandish anything.

    The statement that you're willing to defend yourself is right out there for anyone to see.

    I doubt anyone in their right mind, including the tax guzzlers, would be stalking someone they knew was carrying a sidearm.

  2. I'm looking forward to you moving here, Maui, with your firearms! No registration of any kind here… unlike that police state you'll be leaving behind!

    It should be no one's business what weapons you want to own.

  3. While the "duty to retreat" is annoying, it really doesn't amount to much. "With complete safety" is a rare occurrence in an altercation in which deadly force is otherwise justified. I don't imagine that I could turn my back on some attacker, "with complete safety."

  4. I agree with you regardidng the "complete safety" argument. The problem is that it ends up in the hands of a prosecutor to second guess the situation and make the determination if you should or shouldn't have had the chance to escape.

    Sure, you may win in court ultimately… but the result is that you would have been victimized twice.

  5. The persecutors will do that, anyway. There are so many elements to be proved in a lethal force defense, that they have plenty of room for taking you to court.

    Even if the duty to retreat was stricken, you still need to prove that the lethal force, itself, was justified.

  6. I dont think the fellow with the knife was necessarily right in turning with a knife but he defiantly should not have been arrested and charged

  7. One of the things that bothered me about the USA's response to 9/11 was…The self defense laws.

    If we went by our self defense laws all we would have been able to do was either engage them in the act ..actually that's all…… When we went over to other countries after the fact ..that was against our self defense laws.

    That bothered me .

    But i guess it's silly of me to be so picayune

  8. Open carry will stop an a-hole from following his primal instinct to punch you in the nose if he's 'offended'. That's GOOD. Without having to present the weapon, it has already done its job.

    Of course, you can't shoot someone for merely attempting to punch you in the nose (although you SHOULD be able to). Since that is the case, open carry is the answer.

    Now, to the article: We have an individual right to keep and bear arms. SCOTUS has held that a) it is a basic right, b) it applies to the states as well as the federal government. The Court left room for restrictions pursuant to public safety, however in the case of fundamental rights, they must be as narrow and unintrusive as possible, and have data and evidence to prove that they are necessary.

    Prohibitions in restaurants that serve alcohol, schools and colleges, public parks, theme parks and public buildings (apart from police stations, etc.) are not reasonable infringements. All that needs to be done is to look at the history of the states that have no such prohibitions, and realize that there is no evidence of problems of any kind.

    'Nuff said.

  9. BHirsh,

    I completely agree with you. I also completely disagree with the SCOTUS when it claims that rights can be attenuated.

    There is nothing in the federal Constitution which says rights can be "reasonably" restricted for public safety. In my opinion, any government law regarding the bearing of arms is completely unconstitutional. Possession of machineguns, destructive devices, silencers, etc. etc…. All unconstitutional.

    I'll take their recent decisions over nothing though.

Care to comment?