The shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida in 2012 brought a lot of attention to “stand your ground” self-defense laws, which allow individuals who believe they are in imminent danger to use deadly force. 

Critics claim that the laws lead to a “shoot first, ask questions later” attitude. Those who support “stand your ground” say the law allows people to protect themselves without worrying about whether they have retreated sufficiently before using force.

Traditionally, under common law, the right to use deadly force in self-defense did not apply until the claimant “retreated to the wall.” This means there is a duty to retreat — a duty by the individual claiming self-defense to retreat and escape the danger if it is in his or her power to do so. 

“Stand your ground” laws, however, are an exception to the duty to retreat. 

Florida passed the first such law in 2005. Currently, 28 states have approved “stand your ground” laws through their legislatures. Another eight states apply the legal concept of “stand your ground” though the common law, which is the body of law developed by judges and the courts.

Maryland, including Baltimore and Ocean City, is a “stand your ground” state. It has a self-defense law called the “castle doctrine” which states that “a man faced with the danger of an attack upon his dwelling need not retreat from his home to escape the danger, but instead may stand his ground and, if necessary to repel the attack, may kill the attacker.” 

So, when a Baltimore or Ocean City resident is in his or her home, she may use deadly force against an attacker if deadly force is necessary to prevent the attacker from committing a felony that involves the use of force, violence, or surprise such as murder, robbery, burglary, rape, or arson, according to a legal case decided in 1963. This means that those who use lethal force to protect themselves and their family inside their homes or place of business are more than likely protected by law. 

However, if events take place outside of a person’s home, a Baltimore or Ocean City resident defending themselves has the duty to retreat, unless doing so is not safe or impossible.

When a defendant claims he or she acted in self-defense by producing evidence to support their case, the prosecution has to prove that the defendant did not act in self-defense. 

The issues surrounding Maryland’s “stand your ground” laws are complex. Although you may have a good defense under Maryland’s self-defense laws, the serious nature of the circumstances and the potential charges means the assistance of a Baltimore or Ocean City criminal defense lawyer is important. The consultation is free. The Law Office of Thomas J. Maronick is open during the pandemic and will continue to meet your Ocean City and surrounding areas, Baltimore city and Baltimore county legal needs. We can meet with you remotely if you have access to Zoom. You can contact Thomas Maronick on his cellphone at 202.288.0167, the law office at 410.934.3007 or via our website for a free consultation.