NH Law About... Castle Doctrine

Introduction to... Castle Doctrine

Posted March 13, 2015. Revised February 3, 2017.

The New Hampshire law relating to people defending themselves while in their homes, sometimes called the "castle doctrine", is found in RSA 627.  This is a criminal statute titled “Justification” and relates to the appropriate use of self-defense in a variety of situations. Specifically, RSA 627:7 covers defending one’s home or premises, i.e. the castle doctrine. Castle doctrine laws are related to, but are not the same as, stand-your-ground laws. Read "The Castle Doctrine and Stand-Your-Ground Law" (below) for an explanation of the difference.

This was a difficult statute to find because all we were given to work with was "where's New Hampshire's castle doctrine?" and our usual techniques (statute indexes, and keyword searches of the statutes) did not work.  A thorough check of the RSA index, under “crimes and offenses” and the popular names “castle doctrine” and “stand-your-ground” produced nothing, nor did the standard New Hampshire legal practice books.  In the end, we fell back on a Google search using the phrase “castle doctrine” and “stand-your-ground law” to track down the citation to the law.  

As we have often said, statutes are interrelated; it isn't enough to read just one section without reading the other, related sections. Although RSA 627:7 is the main section which covers defending a dwelling or premises, RSA 627:4 III (a) discusses when a person within a dwelling is or is not required to retreat from an encounter.  RSA 627:9 defines terms used in the statute, including “dwelling”, “deadly force” and “non-deadly force”.  And finally, RSA 627:1-a, discusses possible immunity from civil liability in certain situations under this statute, including when people are acting under RSA 627:7, in defense of a dwelling.   Researchers must read all the relevant sections of the statute to understand what the law requires. 

Please remember that this guide is for information purposes only and is not comprehensive. It is intended as a starting point for research, to illustrate the various sources of the law, and to provide guidance in their use. NH Law About ... is not a substitute for the services of an attorney.


Read about... Castle Doctrine

WEBSITES

The Castle Doctrine and Stand-Your-Ground Law. Connecticut Office of Legislative Research

Link verified on: February 3, 2017

"The Castle Doctrine and 'stand-your-ground' laws are affirmative defenses for individuals charged with criminal homicide. The Castle Doctrine is a common law doctrine stating that an individual has no duty to retreat when in his or her home, or 'castle,' and may use reasonable force, including deadly force, to defend his or her property, person, or another. Outside of the 'castle,' however, an individual has a duty to retreat, if able to do so, before using reasonable force. Stand-your-ground laws, by comparison, remove the common law requirement to retreat outside of one's 'castle,' allowing an individual to use force in self-defense when there is reasonable belief of a threat. Deadly force is reasonable under stand-your-ground laws in certain circumstances, such as imminent great bodily harm or death."   GO>

National Conference of State Legislatures. Self Defense and "Stand Your Ground"

Link verified on: August 7, 2017

The common law principle of castle doctrine says that individuals have the right to use reasonable force, including deadly force, to protect themselves against an intruder in their home. This principle has been codified and expanded by state legislatures.   GO>


PRINT

100 A.L.R. 3d 532. Homicide: Duty to Retreat where Assailant is Social Guest on Premises  GO>

Link verified on: February 3, 2017

67 A.L.R. 5th 637. Homicide: Duty to Retreat Where Assailant and Assailed Share the Same Living Quarters  GO>

Link verified on: February 3, 2017

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Read the law about... Castle Doctrine

NEW HAMPSHIRE STATUTES

RSA 627. Justification   GO>

Link verified on: February 3, 2017

Find it in a Library ... New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated

Link verified on: July 21, 2017

Find the New Hampshire statutes in print at libraries throughout the state.   GO>

Learn About New Hampshire Statutes: New Hampshire statutes are the laws of the State of New Hampshire as enacted by the New Hampshire General Court. GO>
 

NEW HAMPSHIRE CASES

122 N.H. 1141 (1982). State v. Pugliese

Link verified on: February 3, 2017

A defendant asserting the defense of self-defense to a homicide charge tacitly admits the killing was intentional but claims it was justified or excused for some reason as defined by our Criminal Code.   GO>

147 N.H. 567 (2002). State v. Warren

Link verified on: February 3, 2017

The sole question on appeal is whether RSA 627:4, II(d) allows a defendant to use deadly force against a cohabitant of the defendant's home when the defendant reasonably believes that the cohabitant is likely to use unlawful force in the commission of a felony against the defendant in the dwelling or its curtilage.   GO>

148 N.H. 565 (2002). State v. Chen

Link verified on: February 3, 2017

Subject to exceptions [...] a person is entitled to use non-deadly force in self defense from what he reasonably believes to be the imminent use of unlawful, non-deadly force by another person.   GO>

Find it in a Library ... New Hampshire Reports

Link verified on: July 21, 2017

Find the New Hampshire Reports in libraries throughout the state.   GO>

Learn About New Hampshire Cases: New Hampshire case law consists of the published opinions of the New Hampshire Supreme Court. GO>
 

FOR MORE HELP ...

New Hampshire Law Library

Link verified on: July 31, 2017

The state's only public law library. Call, email, or visit, we'll be happy to help.   GO>


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