An Anne Arundel County jury recently acquitted a Pasadena, Maryland man of murder, manslaughter and felony firearms charges, deciding that he acted in self-defense when he fatally shot an acquaintance during an altercation at the man’s home.
The homeowner had called 911 before the man arrived, telling the dispatcher that the man had threatened to burn his house down. The deceased man had come to the house to collect money he claimed was owed to him by a friend of the homeowner. The friend of the homeowner who allegedly owed the money was on the phone with the homeowner at the time of the incident. They both testified that the deceased man sped onto the man’s property and rushed at the homeowner. The homeowner said he shot the man with his shotgun after making several warnings.
Prosecutors emphasized that the deceased man was unarmed and asked the homeowner why he didn’t lock the doors and wait inside for the police to arrive.
The homeowner testified that he thought the deceased man was going to burn the house down and hurt the home’s occupants. The homeowner said he warned the man that he was armed and that they could discuss things once the man calmed down.
According to reporting in the Baltimore Sun, the deceased man was under the influence of alcohol and traces of fentanyl and cocaine were found in his urine.
The Annapolis trial lasted more than a week. The jury decided that the homeowner was justified in his use of deadly force and that the homicide was not second-degree murder or voluntary manslaughter.
Maryland, including Annapolis, 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, Ocean City or Annapolis 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 Maryland 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.
Prosecutors suggested that the Annapolis homeowner was eager to shoot the man rather than wait for the police to show up to handle the situation; the jury rejected that argument.
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 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 Annapolis, Baltimore, Essex, Glen Burnie, Ocean City, Towson or White Marsh 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.