New Hampshire rings in 2024 with new laws: Here’s what you need to know

New laws are coming to New Hampshire starting Jan. 1, 2024.

By Katy Savage

January 3, 2024

Amid a hectic holiday season and then a week of trying to recover between Christmas and New Year’s Day, you might not have heard the news: New Hampshire welcomed the new year with more than 20 new laws on Jan. 1. We’ve listed four changes in the laws that have real consequences for your daily lives.

Here’s what you need to know.

Say farewell to the “Gay Panic” or “LGBTQ+ defense”   

Defendants can no longer use a victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity to downgrade murder convictions, thanks to New Hampshire House Bill 315. Essentially that means the discovery of a victim’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or expression can no longer serve as a legal excuse, even if making an unwanted, but nonforcible, sexual advance. 

New Hampshire joins 15 other states in banning the defense, including Maine, Vermont, New York, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Colorado, Illinois, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, California, and Washington, D.C. 

If you’re wondering about the origins of the “gay panic” defense, it dates back 25 years to the 1998 case of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old gay student at the University of Wyoming who was beaten, tortured, and left to die by two men in Laramie, Wyoming. At trial, the defendants attempted to use the LGBTQ+ “panic” defense, claiming Shepard made sexual advances toward them to excuse their actions. The defendants were unsuccessful.

The last known use of the “gay panic” defense was in a 2018 case in Austin, Texas. James Miller, 69, received just 10 years probation for killing his neighbor, 32-year-old Daniel Spencer. In 2015, attorneys said Spencer invited Miller to his house for a night of music and drinking. Miller claimed that he rejected a kiss from Spencer, which allegedly provoked Spencer into rage. Miller then alleged Spencer lunged toward him and threatened him with a glass, prompting Miller to defend himself by stabbing Spencer with a knife.  

 

Reporting false alarms now comes with tougher consequences

New Hampshire is cracking down as hoax alarm calls rise. Now, if you make false reports about an active shooter, explosive device, or hazardous substance to schools, businesses, or hospitals, it’s not just a slap on the wrist. It’s bumped up to a Class B felony, with a potential prison sentence of seven years and a $4,000 fine for anyone convicted. It’s not just New Hampshire that’s seeing a rise in hoax calls. Nationwide, there were around 30 hoax incidents at schools a week in the last academic year, according to news reports compiled by the National Association of School Resource Officers.

 

New Hampshire now requires rear-facing child seats 

New Hampshire is the only state where adults are not required to buckle up. But children under the age of 2 must now ride in rear-facing child restraints in motor vehicles, thanks to the passage of SB 118

Why the change? Well, data from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) found crashes are the leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 13, and more than 60% of deadly crashes hit the front of the car. So, what’s the solution? Studies say having the little ones face the back is the way to go. If they’re in a rear-facing seat during a crash, the carseat cradles them, instead of jerking them forward.

Violations carry a fine of $50 for first offense and $100 for subsequent offenses. 

Caregivers now eligible to receive temporary assistance

As of the new year, New Hampshire now provides federal funding assistance to caregivers. The state became one of around 11 to allow non-related or “fictive kin” caregivers to receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Around 300 kids in New Hampshire are in for some extra support, adding up to about $7,000 per year. And guess what? The feds are covering the bill, around $2 million annually. In New England, New Hampshire and Vermont stand as the only states with this provision, according to a May 2022 report from the federal Children’s Bureau. Learn more about the program here.

 

 

Author

  • Katy Savage

    Katy Savage is an award-winning reporter with more than 10 years of experience working in daily, weekly and digital news organizations as both an editor and reporter. Based in Enfield, Katy is a New England native and has a passion for telling stories about where she grew up. In her free time, she enjoys running and being outside as much as possible.

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