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Maryland’s Duty to Retreat Can Conflict with the Castle Doctrine to Cloud Self-Defense Issues

When an intruder breaks in and wakes homeowners in their bedrooms, the modified Maryland Castle Doctrine may protect the residents from criminal charges if they shoot the home invader(s) in self-defense. However, not all cases are clear-cut, and shooters could end up facing murder charges. If you find yourself forced to use deadly force defend yourself in your home, you need advice from an experienced criminal defense attorney before you make any statements to the police.

Your efforts to help police can harm your defense

A recent case illustrates just how complicated these cases can be. According to The Capital®, a Glen Burnie man was charged with second-degree murder, manslaughter and the use of a firearm in a felony violent crime after he shot and killed a man he believed had a prior relationship with his wife who broke into their home at 2:00 am after being turned away at the door. The Castle Doctrine permits this type of response to intruders as long as the shooter reasonably believes deadly force is necessary and the amount and nature of the force is reasonable based on the circumstances. However, police raised the following concerns:

  • Whether the homeowner had the opportunity to call 911
  • Whether the homeowner believed the intruder had a weapon when none was found on his person
  • Whether the intruder’s alleged prior relationship with the shooter’s wife influenced the husband’s violent response to the intrusion

Your act of self-defense might have been fully justified. However, particularly if the intruder is killed in the exchange, police must rely on physical evidence at the scene and your statements to determine if your actions were valid under the circumstances. Even a poor choice of words when you respond to police questioning can be used as evidence against you. If you are arrested in Southern Maryland, take your Miranda rights seriously. Tell police you want all questioning to stop, and ask to call a criminal defense lawyer.

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