Last Updated: 08.26.2022

Recently, the news has covered stories about intruders in homes or people being attacked and the victims in the cases defending themselves. The self defense laws in Maryland give a person every right to defend themselves.

However, in a court of law, there are several factors that need to be met in order to use self-defense in Maryland as an affirmative defense when facing criminal charges. Your favorite Baltimore Criminal Defense Lawyer is here to explain what is included in those factors.

The Four Factors That Need to Be Met for Self Defense Laws in Maryland

Use Self Defense Laws Maryland

There is no actual self defense statute in Maryland. However, there are four factors that need to be met to claim that a person acted in self defense:

  1. The defendant was not the aggressor (or, although the defendant was the initial aggressor, [he] [she] did not raise the fight to the deadly force level).
  2. The defendant actually believed that [he] [she] was in immediate and imminent danger of bodily harm.
    The defendant’s belief was reasonable.
  3. The defendant used no more force than was reasonably necessary to defend [himself] [herself] in light of the threatened or actual harm
  4. All of these factors need to be met in order for a person to accurately claim that they acted in self-defense. The absence of one of these factors may show the Judge or jury that the defendant did not necessarily act in self-defense.

What About the Use of Deadly Force in Maryland

Deadly Force Self Defense Laws in Maryland with Guns
The definition of deadly force is:

force that could reasonably cause death or serious bodily harm to another person.

Escalating an incident to the use of deadly force can only be determined reasonable if the aggressor in the situation posed an immediate and imminent threat of death or serious bodily harm to the defendant.

Moreover, before the incident is raised to the level of a threat of deadly force, the defendant is required to make a reasonable effort to retreat from the situation.

However, retreat would not have been an option to end a conflict if the defendant:

  • Was in their home
  • Being robbed
  • Didn’t know how to escape
  • It was unsafe to retreat

Self-Defense Laws in Maryland and Guns

So, what are self-defense laws in Maryland and your 2nd amendment right to carry a gun?

Quick note: this post could be about 3-4 different posts with more detail.

Your Maryland lawyer is trying to keep it simple to get it under 1000 words. But it’s not working.

For example, what a “gun” is, is a bit unclear. A regulated firearm is what is “regulated.” Antique firearms, flintlocks, muskets, and muzzleloaders are a whole other animal… anyway…

Guns & Gun Crime

First and foremost you may not possess a firearm if you have been convicted of certain types of crimes or you fall into other categories of prohibited persons. Here is the relevant portion of the Public Safety Article Sec. 5-133 (b) (full version here):

  • has been convicted of a disqualifying crime;
  • has been convicted of a violation classified as a common-law crime and received a term of imprisonment of more than 2 years;
  • is a fugitive from justice;
  • is a habitual drunkard;
  • is addicted to a controlled dangerous substance or is a habitual user;
    suffers from a mental disorder as defined in § 10-101(f)(2) of the Health – General Article and has a history of violent behavior against the person or another, unless the person has a physician’s certificate that the person is capable of possessing a regulated firearm without undue danger to the person or to another;
  • has been confined for more than 30 consecutive days to a facility as defined in § 10-101 of the Health – General Article, unless the person has a physician’s certificate that the person is capable of possessing a regulated firearm without undue danger to the person or to another;
  • except as provided in subsection (e) of this section, is a respondent against whom a current non ex parte civil protective order has been entered under § 4-506 of the Family Law Article; or
  • if under the age of 30 years at the time of possession, has been adjudicated delinquent by a juvenile court for an act that would be a disqualifying crime if committed by an adult.

The penalties for violations of the above provision vary from 3 years to 15 years in prison depending on which of the Maryland criminal laws an offender violates. Second, To make matters more confusing there are other gun crime statutes in the Maryland Criminal laws Annotated under Maryland Criminal Laws 4-203, 4-204, and 5-622 as examples.

How Can I Lawfully Own and Carry Guns in Maryland

Frankly, it’s not easy.

With the Supreme Court ruling in Heller and McDonald, Maryland now has one of the most restrictive sets of gun laws in the United States. Unless you have a concealed weapons permit, you may not carry a loaded gun.

If you are caught carrying a loaded gun without a permit (or some other statutory exception, like being a federal officer or police), you are subject to Maryland Criminal laws 4-203. You face a mandatory minimum penalty of 30 days jail time with a max of 3 years plus fines.

If you are in lawful possession of a gun (i.e. not a convicted felon) and don’t have a permit you SHOULD transport the gun as follows:

  • unloaded
  • bullets and gun separate
  • in a locked container
  • preferably in with the gun in the trunk and the ammo in the glove box
  • only transport the gun when going to or coming from the range

These suggestions aren’t all hard and fast rules, but if you follow the above guidelines, you won’t have to worry about violating Maryland criminal laws.

Guns – how do I get a permit to carry a concealed weapon?

Not easily.

Currently, there is an appeal pending in the 4th circuit (which is stayed pending appeal) that would loosen Maryland gun control laws. But as of now, you can only obtain a gun permit with “good and substantial cause” by falling into a narrow category of exceptions.

This Maryland lawyer thinks that the SCOTUS will eventually take up the Maryland case. They’ll probably rule that our gun permitting statue and scheme is unconstitutional. But that will take a few years.

As of now, according to the NRA, there are only 12,000 permits issued state-wide. Most are to retired law enforcement officers. Here are the reasons the State of Maryland says you can have a concealed weapon permit:

  • You own or are an employee of a business and make large cash deposits or cash purchases for your business
  • Professional Activities: i.e. doctor, pharmacist, or other types of profession who needs a gun (not really sure what this means, but the MSP is under instructions to deny permits if at all possible)
  • Corrections officers
  • Retired police
  • Private detective or security guard
  • Personal protection – “there must be documented evidence of threats, robberies, and/or assaults supported by official police reports or notarized statement statements from witnesses.”

The bottom line, unless your job requires you to carry a gun, you’re out of luck.

Guns & Self-Defense Laws in Maryland

In Maryland, the Castle Doctrine is supposed to apply to self-defense. What that means is that inside your home, you have more latitude to use self-defense and lethal self-defense when an armed intruder comes onto your premises. Outside of the home, you’re pretty much on your own.

Self-defense, while a valid affirmative defense to a violation of Maryland criminal laws is applicable; you must attempt to retreat before using force and/or lethal force.

Oppose that position with Florida, which has a now-controversial stand-your-ground law that does not require a citizen to attempt a retreat from an assailant and permits legal use of deadly force. That has stirred up some controversy with the Trayvon Martin case.

I was charged with assault from a fight, but I acted in self-defense, what should I do now?

  1. If you have any injuries as a result of the incident, photograph them.  These can be used as evidence that you were also injured.  Also, by taking photographs at the time of the incident you can better document the result of the incident where taking pictures after the incident may not be as useful as evidence.
  1. If you have talked about the incident: STOP! If you have posted a message on Facebook or tweeted about the incident: STOP! DELETE THE POST! These statements may be incriminating and used against you when your case goes to court.
  2. On the other hand, if the other person has posted on a social media site regarding the incident, print off all of the messages.  As stated in the previous paragraph, these messages may be used in court.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, you need an experienced attorney.

The Bottom Line on Self Defense Laws in Maryland and the Use of Guns

Self defense laws in Maryland are very detailed. If you are charged in case where you used self defense you need good representation. ENLawyers is comprised of former Assistant State’s Attorneys who know how the State will prepare their case to convict you.

The attorneys at ENLawyers have experience in representing clients who acted in self-defense and can prepare a defense on your behalf to get the best outcome. Contact us or call (443) 559-4384 today for a FREE 1-hour consultation.

If you find yourself charged with a gun crime, carrying guns, or some other Maryland criminal laws; we can help you there too.

Maryland is one of the most restrictive states regarding guns and gun crime. You may think you are legitimately defending yourself from a street robbery but end up behind bars.