Police Harassment

Criminal Sex (jump to section)

Criminal Justice | Police Harassment | New Hampshire

I am often told by police to “move along” from public areas. Is that legal?

Not necessarily. If the area is public and not posted as having particular hours, you generally have a right to be there as long as you are not engaged in unlawful activity. Public places belong to everyone and are often also places of public accommodation subject to Connecticut’s non-discrimination law. Even if a police officer wants to deter crime, or suspects some kind of unlawful intent, they have no general right to request people to move from one place to another, unless there is unlawful conduct.

What are the general rules about interaction with police?

The presence of individuals who appear to be LGBTQ+– whether because such individuals are displaying symbols such as a rainbow flag or pink triangle or for any other reason–  should not trigger any special scrutiny by a police officer.

Police may of course approach a person and make inquiries. But the fact that a person has been convicted of a past offense, or fails to respond, or responds in a way which does not satisfy the officer, cannot, without more, justify an arrest.

If an officer has a “reasonable and articulable suspicion” that a crime has been committed or is about to be committed, they may briefly detain an individual, or stop the person for purposes of investigation. However, an arrest can only occur upon “probable cause” that a crime has been committed.

What can I do if I believe I have been improperly treated by the police?

There are several places you can call to discuss your options. One is GLAD Answers at 1-800-455-GLAD. Another is the New Hampshire Civil Liberties Union at (603) 225-3080.

Complaints may be made to any individual police department for matters concerning its officers. In addition, you may contact the 24-hour hotline operated by the Attorney General’s Office at (603) 271-1241.

Complaints to the New Hampshire State Police may be made to State Police Headquarters, over the telephone or in writing. A supervisor will call you back to further process the complaint. If the State Police act further on the complaint, you will have to come into the office to make a written statement. Contact State Police Headquarters, 33 Hazen Dr., Concord, NH 03305, (603) 223-3858. Please let GLAD know whenever you make a complaint so that we can track the responsiveness of the various police departments.

In some cases, you may decide to pursue a lawsuit, either because of injuries, improper detainment, or for some other reason. These matters are highly specialized, and GLAD can make attorney referrals. You can also file complaints with the Attorney General’s Office, Criminal Division at (603) 271-3658. They may participate in an investigation or refer a matter back to the chief of the particular police department at issue.


ACLU Know Your Rights: Stopped by Police: Know Your Rights | Stopped by Police | American Civil Liberties Union

Cases & Advocacy

To see Criminal Justice cases or advocacy which GLAD has been directly involved with in New Hampshire, go to: Cases and Advocacy – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on “Criminal Justice” and under “By Location” click on “New Hampshire.”

News & Press Releases

To see news and press releases about Criminal Justice in New Hampshire, go to: News & Press Releases – GLAD and under “By Issue” click on “Criminal Justice” and under “By Location” click on “New Hampshire.”

Criminal Justice | Criminal Sex | New Hampshire

Does New Hampshire have a sodomy law?

No, Moreover, in Lawrence v. Texas (2003), the U.S. Supreme Court struck down all sodomy laws, making clear that private, adult sexual conduct cannot be criminalized.

If it’s not illegal for LGBTQ+ people to have sex, why are people still getting arrested?

LGBTQ+ people are subject to the same laws as non-LGBTQ+ people. Sex in public, with underage persons, without consent, or with force are all illegal acts. Sex for pay– as either the customer or the provider– is also illegal.

New Hampshire also has an “indecent exposure and lewdness” law, which prohibits: fornication (i.e., intercourse), exposure of the genitals, or “any other act of gross lewdness” if the circumstances are such that: 

  1. a person should know those acts “will likely cause affront or alarm”; or
  2. purposely performed in front of a child less than 16 years old. 

As a general matter, a violation of the indecent exposure law is a misdemeanor. However, if a person performs a sex act in front of a child who is 12 years old or younger, or if a person has previous convictions for indecent exposure in New Hampshire or elsewhere, then the person can be prosecuted for a felony.

What kinds of activity does the “public indecency” law prohibit?

First, it is important to note what kinds of activity the law does not prohibit. The law only encompasses sexual activity and nudity: no one should be arrested or hassled for hand-holding, cruising, talking, flirting, or other non-sexual touching.

Second, sex is not illegal simply because it takes place outdoors, in parked cars, or on public lands. It all depends on the circumstances and whether a person should know their acts “will likely cause affront or alarm.” For example, a couple who desires privacy and takes reasonable steps to secure it can argue that there was no reason to suspect their activities would cause affront. A similar argument can be made about activity taking place in a cruising area, where there is a reasonable expectation that the people present would not be alarmed by or take offense.

As a practical matter, regardless of one’s rights, having sex outdoors is a risky business. For one, based on numerous reports to us, we believe that some police will overlook outdoor sexual activity between straight couples, but arrest LGBTQ+ people engaged in the same behavior. Another concern is that some police “hunt” for LGBTQ+ people having sex outdoors in park lands and rest areas to arrest them, sometimes in uniform and sometimes as undercover decoys. If a person is caught, they can be charged with a violation of the sex laws.

Does New Hampshire have a sex offender registry law?

Yes. Every state now has such a law, although the terms differ from state to state.

What types of crimes are deemed to be “sex offenses”?

As you would expect with a law designed to ensnare dangerous and violent predators, most of the crimes involve violence or sex with children. A single conviction under the indecent exposure law is not a registrable sex offense. However, if you have been convicted of performing a sex act in front of a child who is 12 or younger, or you have previous convictions for indecent exposure in New Hampshire or elsewhere, you will be deemed a sex offender.

How can I find what charges I have been convicted of?

You can contact the New Hampshire Department of Public Safety, Division of State Police, Central Repository for Criminal Records, 10 Hazen Dr., Concord, NH 03305; (603) 271-2538. They have their own form, which you must have notarized, and you must pay a $25 fee. You may request your records in person or by mail.

What obligations are imposed on “sex offenders”?

A sex offender must report their mailing address and residential address within 30 days of release of custody or of moving to New Hampshire, and then again every year. Some will have to do so more often. In addition, sex offenders must inform the Department of Safety whenever they move, change their name, or if they are using an alias.

All convicted offenders are registered with the Department of Safety for a minimum of 10 years. Some may be registered for life, especially if their crime involved children or if they have multiple convictions. The State Police also maintain a separate list of people convicted of certain offenses, including indecent exposure in front of a minor aged 12 or younger, or where a person has multiple indecent exposure convictions. These lists include personal data about the offender, such as their name and address, the crime they were convicted of, and when and where the conviction occurred. Sometimes the list will also include a physical description or photo of the person, information about other convictions, and a profile of their victims.

All of this information is updated and sent monthly to local law enforcement agencies, which make the information available to “interested members of the public upon request.” Among other things, a person may request information about a specific named individual or about all listed individuals residing in a specific city or town.

What is the age of consent for sexual activity?

Generally, the age of consent for sexual activity is 16. However, if the older party is in a position of authority over the younger party, the age of consent is raised to 18.


Information About New Hampshire Sex Offender Registry: https://www.nhsp.dos.nh.gov/our-services/justice-information-bureau/criminal-offenders-disclaimer.