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What common law rules can affect self-defense claims in Maryland?

In some states, there are clear statutes outlining self-defense rules. In many others, prior court rulings have established certain standards and limitations for self-defense claims in criminal court. In Maryland, there have been several crucial court cases that clarified when defendants can assert that they acted in self-defense.

Court precedent in Maryland has established certain standards, such as requiring that the amount of force used is reasonable given the circumstances and the need for a credible fear for one’s safety. Those rulings help clarify an issue not directly addressed in statutes. In Maryland, there are also common law rules that can influence self-defense claims, including the following.

The castle doctrine

The castle doctrine is a common law rule that people often think is a state statute. However, it has its basis in commonly-accepted values. The castle doctrine gets its name from the idea that someone’s home is their castle. People have the right to feel secure in their residences and to protect their homes regardless of whether they own the property or rent it from someone else. Those facing a threat of bodily harm or criminal activity in their residences can defend themselves against criminal activity, including forced entry into the home.

The duty to retreat

The castle doctrine in part exists to eliminate the obligation to leave a situation before defending oneself in one’s own home. In most scenarios where people might engage in attempts at self-defense, they have an obligation to try to leave the situation first. Someone confronted by a possible assailant in a public location can only legally use force to defend themselves if they have attempted to flee but were unable to do so or if the situation prevented them from leaving a hostile or dangerous encounter.

Those who want to respond to charges of violent criminal activity with a claim of self-defense often need help developing that claim. They need to ensure their case meets the necessary standards. Self-defense allegations are one way to respond to violent criminal charges in Maryland. Defendants may need to talk about the situation that led to their arrest with a skilled legal team to determine the best approach given their circumstances.