A “Stand Your Ground” Law for Maryland?

Although Zimmerman was acquitted, the Trayvon Martin shooting is continuing to have a significant impact on lawmakers. By now most Maryland residents have heard of controversial “Stand Your Ground” laws in connection with George Zimmerman’s acquittal in the Trayvon Martin killing in Florida.

“Stand your ground” is one of four legal concepts related to self-defense. The other three are “Duty to retreat,” “castle doctrine,” and “self-defense.” The last of these is designed to protect an innocent person who is attacked—it is what was applied to the Trayvon Martin case, even though “stand your ground” was associated with the case. The castle doctrine is like self-defense, but it only applies to home, place of work, vehicle and real property.

The state of Maryland follows the “duty to retreat” law. A “duty to retreat” means that someone who might be being attacked cannot resort to deadly force or self-defense if it is possible to safely avoid the harm.

Stand your ground laws are a type of self-defense law that permits a person to use deadly force in certain situations. The stand your ground law is a defense or immunity to criminal charges and a civil suit for damages. It sometimes applies to defending one’s home or vehicle, and sometimes it applies to all legally occupied locations.

Currently Maryland has a duty to retreat law—which requires people who are outside of their home to retreat or avoid danger if possible before using deadly force to defend themselves.'” Delegate Pat McDonough has proposed a “stand your ground” law for Maryland, claiming that it will help crime victims. He plans to introduce this new law in next year’s General Assembly.

McDonough has argued that the early release of violent criminals, a rise in criminal activity among youth, and soft sentencing mandate a stand your ground law for Maryland. Many people oppose his efforts to replace “duty to retreat” with “stand your ground.” Pointing to the Trayvon Martin case, some opponents are focusing on the fact that the law can be interpreted different ways based on race. One defense attorney noted that encouraging people to help themselves actually encourages more criminal activity.

In McDonough’s proposed law, Maryland residents and visitors wouldn’t have a duty to abandon or retreat from a place that he or she would otherwise have the right to be. McDonough argues that the criminal justice system is broken and dysfunctional, mandating change.

Meanwhile, however, Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, a Democrat from Texas, is announcing that in response to the Trayvon Martin shooting, she will introduce legislation that cuts federal funding to states that don’t require neighborhood watch programs to register with police. Not only that, but she plans to convince states to change their “stand your ground” laws by permitting them to avoid a cut in federal funding if their laws are amended in support of a “duty to retreat.” It is not clear yet whether Maryland will embrace the idea of a “stand your ground” law, but it is possible that a new federal law would affect whether such a controversial law is adopted.

If you or a loved one is accused of or charged with a crime, it is in your best interests to retain a private criminal defense attorney with significant experience. If you are arrested or charged with a crime, it is in your best interests to consult an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney . Contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.

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