Your Life Matters

  1. Home
  2.  • 
  3. Criminal Defense
  4.  • What is considered self-defense by law?

What is considered self-defense by law?

On Behalf of | Apr 3, 2024 | Criminal Defense

Have you ever wondered what the legal boundaries are concerning self-defense? What actions are considered acceptable, and under what circumstances? Self-defense laws in Maryland are distinct from those in many other states.

While there’s no specific statute outlining self-defense actions within the state, a rich history of court rulings shapes what’s considered “reasonable” in self-defense situations. For those who want to safeguard their rights – and those who may need to use self-defense as a strategy in the wake of a violent situation – it’s important to explore the core principles of self-defense law and delve into how the Old Line State defines acceptable actions and circumstances for self-defense, particularly when physical means or firearms are involved.

The core principles of self-defense

Generally, self-defense allows individuals to use reasonable force to protect themselves from imminent harm. However, it’s crucial to note that individuals have a duty to retreat from danger before resorting to deadly force unless escape is impossible.

Additionally, the force used must be proportional to the threat. You can’t respond with deadly force to a minor threat. Most importantly, the person claiming self-defense cannot have been the initial aggressor in the altercation.

Self-defense in Maryland: A case-by-case approach

The Old Line State departs from the norm by not having a specific statute dedicated to self-defense. Instead, judges rely on precedent set in past court cases to determine if the use of force in a self-defense situation was justified. This case-by-case approach means the circumstances surrounding an altercation play a crucial role in how a judge views the use of self-defense.

The leading case on self-defense involving deadly force is State v. Faulkner (1984). This case established four key factors a judge considers when evaluating a self-defense claim. The first is reasonable belief of imminent harm. The accused must have had a reasonable belief they were in imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm.

Additionally, the accused must demonstrate actual belief in the danger. In other words, the belief in danger must have been genuine, not fabricated. Furthermore, the person claiming self-defense cannot have been the initial aggressor or provoked the conflict. Lastly, the force used must be reasonable and proportional to the threat faced. Essentially, the force used shouldn’t be more than absolutely necessary.

In Maryland, the lack of a specific self-defense statute means that court rulings have established the framework for what’s considered reasonable force. If you’ve been charged with assault, it can help to consult with a reliable legal team that can help you mount a solid criminal defense strategy with these realities in mind.