Maryland Home Defense Question
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Thread: Maryland Home Defense Question

  1. #1

    Maryland Home Defense Question

    So I have been doing some research on when it is okay to defend yourself against an intruder in your home if you reside in Maryland. I myself live in Virginia but my wife and I are separated and she lives in Maryland. My question really is "when" is it okay to defend yourself from an intruder with a firearm. I am done some research and asked different police officers in Maryland and I swear I get a different answer every time. I have had answers that range from 20 feet inside your house, you have to attempt to retreat first, or even shoot them down right when they cross the threshold. I know most of us aren't lawyers in here but does anyone have a resource or some clearer guidance on this issue?

    Thanks!

  2.   
  3. #2
    Please note, the accuracy of the following information should be confirmed by consulting a lawyer familiar with the State of Maryland's Laws and Statutes:

    From idtac.com website:
    Disclaimer
    1.These are excerpts taken from State Statutes and other sources. Information herein should not be assumed accurate, and if you find yourself needing accurate information about law, you are hereby advised to consult a lawyer. Information herein should be used for informational, and not legal, purposes only.
    2.Any Device listed below as “legal to carry” only applies if carried with legal intent (that is for self defense). Most often states that allow citizens to carry weapons and devices for self defense have increased penalties for using them in commission of a crime.

    Maryland’s Expanded Self Defense Law

    Maryland is a Castle Doctrine State: Any person using force intended or likely to cause death or great bodily injury within his or her residence shall be presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily injury to self, family, or a member of the household when that force is used against another person, not a member of the family or household, who unlawfully and forcibly enters or has unlawfully and forcibly entered the residence and the person using the force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry occurred. As used in this section, great bodily injury means a significant or substantial physical injury.

    Duty to Retreat: No

    Where the Law Applies: In the home.

    From Wikipedia website:
    Duty to Retreat and the Castle Doctrine[edit]

    Maryland also follows the common law rule that, outside of one's home, a person, before using deadly force in self-defense, has the duty "'to retreat or avoid danger if such means were within his power and consistent with his safety.'" DeVaughn v. State, 232 Md. 447, 453, 194 A.2d 109, 112 (1963), cert. denied, 376 U.S. 527 (1964), quoting Bruce v. State, 218 Md. 87, 97, 145 A.2d 428, 433 (1958). See also Burch v. State, 346 Md. 253, 283, 696 A.2d 443, 458 (1997).

    But a person does not have to retreat if it would not be safe for the person to do so. "[I]f the peril of the defendant was imminent, he did not have to retreat but had a right to stand his ground and to defend and protect himself." Bruce v. State, supra, 218 Md. at 97, 145 A.2d at 433.

    The duty to retreat also does not apply if one is attacked in one's own home. "[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." Crawford v. State, 231 Md. 354, 361, 190 A.2d 538, 541 (1963). The Court of Appeals said in Crawford, a case in which the defendant fatally shot a younger man who was attempting to break into his home to beat and rob him:

    "A man is not bound to retreat from his house. He may stand his ground there and kill an[y] person who attempts to commit a felony therein, or who attempts to enter by force for the purpose of committing a felony, or of inflicting great bodily harm upon an inmate. In such a case the owner or any member of the family, or even a lodger in the house, may meet the intruder at the threshold, and prevent him from entering by any means rendered necessary by the exigency, even to the taking of his life, and the homicide will be justifiable."

    Id., 231 Md. at 361, 190 A.2d at 542, quoting Clark and Marshall, Law of Crimes, (6th ed. Wingersky rev.), 7.03, pages 436-37.

    This principle is known as the "Castle Doctrine", "the name being derived from the bedrock (but, unfortunately, somewhat hackneyed) principle that 'a man's home is his castle' and his ultimate retreat." Barton v. State, 46 Md. App. 616, 618, 420 A.2d 1009, 1010-1011 (1980). A man "is not bound to flee and become a fugitive from his own home, for, if that were required, there would, theoretically, be no refuge for him anywhere in the world." Barton, 46 Md. App. at 618, 420 A.2d at 1010.

    A person does not have to be the owner of the home or the head of the household in order to be able to invoke the "Castle Doctrine." Instead, "any member of the household, whether or not he or she has a proprietary or leasehold interest in the property, is within its ambit . . . ." Barton, 46 Md. App. at 619-20, 420 A.2d at 1011.

    However, even in one's own home, the degree of force used in self-defense must not be "excessive." Crawford v. State, supra, 231 Md. at 362, 190 A.2d at 542. Quoting a treatise on criminal law, the Court of Appeals said in Crawford:

    "It is a justifiable homicide to kill to prevent the commission of a felony by force or surprise.

    The crimes in prevention of which life may be taken are such and only such as are committed by forcible means, violence, and surprise, such as murder, robbery, burglary, rape, or arson.

    "It is also essential that killing is necessary to prevent the commission of the felony in question. If other methods could prevent its commission, a homicide is not justified; all other means of preventing the crime must first be exhausted."

    Id., 231 Md. at 362-63, 190 A.2d at 542, quoting, 1 Wharton's Criminal Law and Procedure (Anderson Ed., 1957), 206, at pages 453-55.

  4. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by mmyers View Post
    So I have been doing some research on when it is okay to defend yourself against an intruder in your home if you reside in Maryland. I myself live in Virginia but my wife and I are separated and she lives in Maryland. My question really is "when" is it okay to defend yourself from an intruder with a firearm. I am done some research and asked different police officers in Maryland and I swear I get a different answer every time. I have had answers that range from 20 feet inside your house, you have to attempt to retreat first, or even shoot them down right when they cross the threshold. I know most of us aren't lawyers in here but does anyone have a resource or some clearer guidance on this issue?

    Thanks!
    Quite frankly if you are having a problem interpreting imminent danger and are actually have "measurements" in your mind, you are in a lot of trouble and you better sort this out real quick or you will either not survive or you will be arrested.

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    Quote Originally Posted by kelcarry View Post
    Quite frankly if you are having a problem interpreting imminent danger and are actually have "measurements" in your mind, you are in a lot of trouble and you better sort this out real quick or you will either not survive or you will be arrested.
    Exactly. He's in the house? He's going down.
    GOD, GUNS and GUITARS

  6. #5
    Did you notice "But a person does not have to retreat if it would not be safe for the person to do so."

    As interpreted in the "Legal Heat" app

    "Duty to Retreat
    Yes. No statutory reference exists, however the common law appears to support the MPC's minority opinion that a duty to retreat from an encounter must be made prior to using deadly force, if it can be done in complete safety. See MPC 3.04 (2)(b)"

    So, the Castle Doctrine seems a little questionable in the Free State of Maryland.
    "Lets Be Careful Out There!"

    Ron

  7. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by RonM0710 View Post
    Did you notice "But a person does not have to retreat if it would not be safe for the person to do so."

    As interpreted in the "Legal Heat" app

    "Duty to Retreat
    Yes. No statutory reference exists, however the common law appears to support the MPC's minority opinion that a duty to retreat from an encounter must be made prior to using deadly force, if it can be done in complete safety. See MPC 3.04 (2)(b)"

    So, the Castle Doctrine seems a little questionable in the Free State of Maryland.
    Duty to retreat applies only as avoidance or deterrence. Once actually attacked the duty to retreat is gone.
    GOD, GUNS and GUITARS

  8. #7
    This seems to be the key statement in my original response to your original post:
    "Maryland’s Expanded Self Defense Law:
    Maryland is a Castle Doctrine State: Any person using force intended or likely to cause death or great bodily injury within his or her residence shall be presumed to have held a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or great bodily injury to self, family, or a member of the household when that force is used against another person, not a member of the family or household, who unlawfully and forcibly enters or has unlawfully and forcibly entered the residence and the person using the force knew or had reason to believe that an unlawful and forcible entry occurred. As used in this section, great bodily injury means a significant or substantial physical injury.
    Duty to Retreat: No

    Where the Law Applies: In the home.
    The duty to retreat also does not apply if one is attacked in one's own home. "[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, in summary, it appears that if you are in fear of harm from someone that has entered into your home without your invitation or permission, you have the right to defend yourself, your home and your family.
    However, in Maryland, you have a duty to retreat if you are outside of your home. "Maryland also follows the common law rule that, outside of one's home, a person, before using deadly force in self-defense, has the duty "'to retreat or avoid danger if such means were within his power and consistent with his safety."
    Seems pretty clear to me. If she's home, tell her to shoot to kill. If she's away from home, tell her to back away from the assailant, and if he advances towards her at all while doing so, she is okay to shoot.

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