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How Maryland distinguishes between self-defense and assault

On Behalf of | Nov 30, 2023 | blog, Criminal Defense

You may find yourself facing assault charges after a physical altercation. In some cases, your actions could fall into the category of self-defense, which may be a valid justification for the use of force.

In this challenging situation, it is important to understand the differences between self-defense and assault in Maryland.

Imminent threat and reasonable fear

You must be able to prove that you faced an immediate threat of bodily harm. The court will determine whether your level of fear was reasonable based on the situation. They will also analyze whether you needed to use force to protect yourself.

Maryland extends the right to use force to the defense of others. If an individual reasonably believes that another person is facing an imminent threat, they may use force to protect that person.

Duty to retreat

State law requires you to retreat from a physical confrontation if you can safely leave the situation. If you cannot retreat, you have the right to stand your ground by using reasonable force.

If someone enters your home, you do not have a duty to retreat. Maryland follows the Castle Doctrine, which indicates that you can use force to defend your home. The same statute applies to locations you legally occupy (a hotel room, for example).

Proportional use of force

Your defensive actions must be proportionate to the threat faced. The court will not consider an excessive use of force as self-defense.

Maryland courts consider both subjective and objective factors when evaluating self-defense claims. Subjective factors include the individual’s perception of the threat and response. Objective factors assess whether a reasonable person would have also perceived a threat and taken action.

If you used force to defend yourself or someone else, you could face assault charges if the person experienced bodily harm. You have the right to present evidence to the court to help prove that you acted in self-defense. Conviction for assault charges in Maryland can result in $2,500 in fines and up to 10 years in prison even for a misdemeanor.