Facing a charge for first degree assault, second degree assault or a related offense can be an intimidating, confusing, and stressful predicament. One may look back on the incident and feel as if he did not do anything wrong. Or one may feel that she was only protecting herself from harm. If it is a domestic violence allegation, a spouse may believe that his or her husband or wife was the initial aggressor, and the spouse should be the one facing the assault charges, not the other way around! The good news for the person facing the assault charges is that self-defense is an affirmative defense in Maryland. If a judge or jury in Maryland finds that a defendant acted in self-defense, then that person must be found NOT GUILTY.
Self-Defense Law for Assault in Maryland
A few things must have happened in order to be successful with an assault self-defense claim. First, the defendant must have an actual and reasonable belief that he or she was in immediate and imminent danger at the time of the assault. What this means is that the facts must indicate that the defendant thought, and it was a reasonable thought, that he was about to be harmed. Additionally, it must be the case that the danger the defendant believed existed was one that was just about to happen. It’s not enough that there may be some danger in the future–it’s got to be close to happening (or presently happening).
Secondly, the defendant must use no more force than is reasonably necessary to defend himself or herself from the perceived or actual danger. For instance, if Johnny punches Mike, Mike is allowed to punch Johnny back in self defense. However, Mike is not allowed to pull out a knife or a gun in response to a punch, as that would be meeting force with excessive, non-equal force (generally–there are always extreme exceptions based on the facts).
Note: For self-defense in an assault charge there is no requirement for a defendant to flee prior to fighting back, but there are certain retreat requirements in a homicide case.
How to Show Someone Acted in Self-Defense
Every case is different and it will ultimately depend on the specific facts of the individual case to determine whether there is a strong case for self-defense. There are a couple key questions I like to ask for any case that may help show if that someone acted in self-defense. For example, who initiated the physical contact? If the defendant was not the initiator of the contact, there could be a case for self-defense. What is the history between the defendant and the complainant? Does the defendant know if the complainant has any violent tendencies? Has the complainant harmed the defendant in the past? This character evidence is relevant for a self-defense case as it can show that the defendant had an actual and reasonable fear of imminent harm based on past experiences.
Contact a Maryland Attorney for your Assault Case
Have a first degree or second degree assault case and don’t know what to do? Call the Law Offices of Christopher L. Peretti today at 301-875-3472. Consultations are always free. We will look at all potential defenses for your assault case, including self-defense, and will fight your case tooth and nail in order to secure your freedom, protect your rights, and maintain your record and reputation.