It may be easy to dismiss claims of self-defense made by those facing criminal charges. Yet at the same, you likely recognize that there are scenarios where you may feel compared to act in defense of yourself, your family, your home and property, and even your coworkers. The question then becomes to what extent Maryland law allows you to act in this regard.
The trouble with claiming that your actions should fall under the state’s self-defense laws is that Maryland lawmakers have not created such standards by statute. Thus, you must look to the legal precedents established in the state when defending your actions.
Meeting the state’s accepted standard
While not defined in the state’s statutes, the topic of self-defense appears in several state court rulings. Local officials will often look to these rulings as setting the legal precedent the state follows (until officials adopt a documented statute or the state’s high courts issue a contrary high court ruling). Thus far, the ruling establishing the state’s precedent is State vs. Faulkner, in which the court ruled that in order for lawful self-defense to apply to a case, it must meet the following elements:
- The accused had a reasonable belief of suffering death or serious injury at the hands of an attacker
- Evidence exists that supports that belief
- The accused was not the aggressor in the altercation
- The accused only used the force the circumstances of the situation mandated
Following common law principles
When citing this standard in cases, officials will also apply common law principles. For example, in your case, the expectation is that there was no way to retreat from the situation you encountered. If there is the possibility of retreating from a dangerous situation (other than those occurring in your home), you have a duty to do so.