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Is there a duty to retreat before defending oneself in Maryland?

On Behalf of | Aug 22, 2023 | Criminal Defense

There are numerous circumstances in which people may feel compelled to use physical force in self-defense. Generally speaking, the law recognizes that reasonable actions taken to defend oneself, other people or one’s property are not automatically criminal.

There are certain steps that people need to take, however, if they intend to use physical force for self-defense if they want to avoid prosecution or they want to claim that they acted in self-defense during a trial. When evaluating whether someone lawfully engaged in self-defense or committed a violent crime, the state looks at whether or not they fulfilled the legal requirements for self-defense claims.

For example, in some states, there is a duty to retreat or to try to leave the situation before using physical force, and in others, there is no such obligation. Is there a duty to retreat before resorting to violence in Maryland?

There is often a duty to retreat

According to court rulings in Maryland and common law practices, there is an expectation that individuals would attempt to retreat from a threatening situation in public spaces. For example, if someone feels threatened by another person while walking to their car in a parking lot, they should generally try to leave, possibly by getting in their vehicle, rather than turning around to confront the other party. In general, Maryland courts expect that those able to leave a situation without using physical aggression to do so will Retreat before resorting to physical violence.

There is a notable exception

Maryland does not have a stand-your-ground statute, which means there is no law affirming the right of individuals to use physical force without first retreating. However, common law practices and court precedents alike a firm what people call the castle doctrine. The castle doctrine refers to an individual’s right to defend their home as though it were their castle, meaning that they can use lethal force without a duty to retreat while in their own homes. Given that Maryland has limited statutory exploration of self-defense when compared with certain other states, it is often necessary to carefully evaluate self-defense claims on a case-by-case basis.

Learning more about viable defense strategies may benefit those accused of engaging in interpersonal violence in Maryland.