If someone threatens to harm you or someone else, the law allows you to use reasonable force to defend yourself. This is known as self-defense.
However, self-defense laws come with certain restrictions. Per Maryland laws, if the threat happens away from your home (like a bar fight), you are required to retreat before you can use force to defend yourself as long as it is reasonably possible and safe to do so. To justify your use of self-defense you would need to show retreat was not an option.
So, how do Maryland self-defense laws work?
You must satisfy certain legal criteria to successfully argue self-defense in court. Specifically, here are four elements that you will need to prove when arguing your case:
The nature of the aggressor – You will need to show that you didn’t start the conflict, and if you did, you need to show that you did not escalate it to a level that required the use of deadly force.
The nature of the threat – You must show a credible belief that you or someone else faced an imminent threat of bodily harm. You cannot use force against a threat that has passed.
Reasonable belief – You must show that your perception of the threat in question was reasonable.
Reasonable force – The force you use must have been proportionate to the threat in question.
What if you were at home?
The duty to retreat only applies if you are away from your home. If you are at home (like a case of an intrusion), you do not have to retreat. Of course, it is prudent to call the police while trying to de-escalate the tension. However, you have a right to protect yourself and your family. The only restriction to this is that the force you apply must be proportionate to the threat in question.
Being accused of a violent crime can be distressful. Understanding the state’s self-defense laws can help you protect your rights when defending yourself.