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CASTLE DOCTRINE – Invited Guests vs. Uninvited Trespassers

Maryland criminal lawyers, both defense attorneys and prosecutors, have a difficult time understanding the application of the Castle Doctrine. The answer is simple: A person’s status as an invited guest or uninvited trespasser does not impact an occupant’s right to reasonably defend their property. Under the Castle Doctrine, “a man faced with the danger of an attack upon his dwelling need not retreat from his home to escape the danger, but instead may stand his ground and, if necessary to repel the attack, may kill the attacker.” Regardless of whether the attacker is an uninvited trespasser, or an invited guest-turned aggressor, the law protects an occupant’s right to use force reasonably necessary to prevent or terminate an intruder’s entry into the home.

With respect trespassers and other uninvited aggressors, “Castle Doctrine” jurisdictions uniformly hold that a person unlawfully attacked by an uninvited intruder may stand their ground and use whatever force is reasonably necessary to repel the intruder.

For invitees-turned aggressors, courts have similarly held that an occupant may stand their ground and use deadly force. Without any lawful claim to the property, the invitee-aggressor is treated the same as a trespasser-aggressor in that the occupant may defend their property with reasonable force. As stated in the leading Maryland case Gainer v. State, “when an attack occurs in one’s home by an assailant who is not an intruder but has a right to be on the premises, an assailed person who is without fault, need not ‘retreat to the wall’ before defending himself.”

For these reasons it does not seem that a person’s status as an invited guest or uninvited trespasser impacts the occupant’s right to reasonably defend their property.

For further information, please contact the criminal defense attorneys at STSW.