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Maryland Self Defense Laws

Maryland self defense laws provide guidance about the situations in which a person who has been attacked can defend themselves. In some cases, a person can even kill someone else in self-defense. However, these rules can be complicated and there are many situations in which someone commits a crime despite having acted to defend themselves.

This is further complicated by the fact that many of the rules relating to self defense are part of the common law, law developed over the course of time from the rulings of judges, as opposed to law embodied in statutes, and don't appear in Maryland law books. As such, self defense claims can be difficult to litigate.

Overview of Maryland Self Defense Laws

The following chart provides some basic information relating to issues involved in Maryland self defense laws:


N/A, Common Law

State v. Faulkner Principles

Maryland's landmark case on self defense, State v. Faulkner, cited in Roach v. State, provides the requirements for a justifiable self-defense resulting in a homicide (other than felony murder.) Those wishing to make the claim must establish their:

  1. Reasonable belief that they are in imminent or immediate danger of death or serious bodily harm from an assailant;
  2. Actual belief that they are in danger;
  3. Absence of provocation or aggression;
  4. Reasonable use of force, not more than demanded by the situation.
Common Law Principals

Maryland follows several common law principles relating to self defense, which include:

  • Duty to Retreat - In situations that take place outside of a person's home the individual defending themselves has the duty to retreat, unless doing so is unsafe or impossible.
  • The Castle Doctrine - In a person's home they do not need to retreat, but can stand their ground and attempt to defeat or deter the invader. However, the use of force here must still be reasonable.
Burden of Proof

When a defendant claims that they acted in self-defense by producing evidence to this effect the prosecution has the burden of proving that the defendant did not act in self-defense. The defendant has the burden of production, meaning that they must produce evidence to support the defense, while the prosecution has the burden of persuasion, and must convince the jury that their version of events is the correct one.

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Related Resources:

If you would like to learn more about Maryland self defense laws the following links provide additional information:

Get Professional Help With Your Maryland Self-Defense Claim

Although you may have a solid defense under Maryland's self defense laws, the serious nature of the potential charges means professional assistance is highly recommended. A competent attorney can help develop your defense and identify any other potential defenses in your case. Contact a local criminal defense attorney to discuss the details of your situation.

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