Two recent shootings have sparked discussions about “Stand your Ground” laws.
In one instance, a teenage boy in Missouri who was sent by his parents to pick up his younger brothers after a play date was shot by a man who reportedly said he thought the boy was “yanking on the handle of the door to his home.”
In another instance, a young woman in upstate New York, who was a passenger in a car that mistakenly pulled into the wrong driveway while looking for a party, was shot by the homeowner.
“Stand Your Ground” laws allow individuals who reasonably believe they are in imminent danger to use deadly force.
Maryland, including Ocean City, does not have a specific “stand your ground” law on the books. However, the state has the “Castle Doctrine” on the books and that law applies the same protections as a “Stand Your Ground” law.”
The “Castle Doctrine” 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.”
The law applies to:
- Your home;
- The area immediately surrounding your house (described in Maryland law as “the curtilage”) and,
- In some cases, your place of business.
So, a Maryland resident, 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 such as murder, robbery, burglary, rape or arson or to prevent violence, 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, in the area nearby to their home or their place of business, are more than likely protected by law.
However, if events take place outside of these areas, an Ocean City, Maryland resident defending themselves has a duty to retreat, unless doing so is not safe or impossible.
The key element, apart from where the incident occurs, is that your belief must be reasonable.
What Must the Prosecution Prove If You Claim Stand Your Ground as a Defense?
When a defendant in Maryland claims self-defense under the Castle Doctrine, the prosecution must prove that the defendant’s actions were not justified. In order to do this, the prosecution must typically prove one or more of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The defendant did not have a reasonable belief they were in imminent danger. The prosecution must show that your belief that you were in imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm was not reasonable under the circumstances.
- The defendant was the aggressor. If the prosecution can prove that you provoked the incident or were the initial aggressor, the State may be able to overcome the self-defense claim. However, if you withdrew from the confrontation and communicated your intent to do so, you may still be able to claim self-defense if the other party continued the aggression.
- The defendant used excessive force. The prosecution must prove that you used more force than was reasonably necessary to defend yourself under the circumstances. This means that if you could have used non-lethal force to protect yourself but instead used deadly force, the self-defense claim may not hold up.
- The defendant was not in their home, near to the home or their place of business. Because Maryland’s Castle Doctrine only applies to specific locations, the prosecution may be able to defeat a self-defense claim by proving that the incident took place outside of the protected areas.
The issues surrounding Maryland’s “Stand Your Ground” laws are complex. The serious nature of the circumstances and the potential charges means the aid of an Ocean City criminal defense lawyer is important. The consultation is free.
If you are facing divorce or separation or need a pre-nuptial agreement, an Ocean City family law attorney can help. The attorneys at Maronick Law LLC have experience with Annapolis, Baltimore, Essex, Ocean City, Towson, White Marsh family law matters.
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