A Carroll County delegate and a delegate who represents part of Carroll are co-sponsoring a bill that would allow an occupant to use any amount of force to protect their residence from an intruder.
House Bill 608, co-sponsored by Del. Susan Krebs, R-District 5, and Del. Trent Kittleman, R-District 9A, who represents part of southeastern Carroll, will allow occupants to use any amount of force, including deadly, if they suspect someone of making an unlawful entry into their home; someone of a committing a crime in the home; or if someone is likely to use physical force, regardless of how slight, according to the bill.
Under the bill, if someone were to use deadly force, they would not face criminal charges. There are exceptions for law enforcement officers and people who have permission to be in the home.
The bill is similar to the Castle Doctrine already in place in Maryland, Krebs said. She said she decided to co-sponsor the bill because she believes that people have the right to defend themselves.
Were to become law, the bill would increase protections for residents, but it could also create some problems, said defense attorney Jeremy Eldridge. Eldridge has defended some cases involving defense of property in Carroll, but his cases wouldn't apply because they were outside of the dwelling.
Making sure residents understand what constitutes a dwelling will be an important aspect of the bill if it were to be passed, he said.
Eldridge said the bill strengthens the Castle Doctrine and will likely make residents feel safer. In many of the home invasion situations, a person has to make a split-second decision, and the bill could help them make that decision. It also would override the idea of retreating into your home, which in many self-defense criminal defenses is required, he said.
"You essentially don't have to wait until the home invasion becomes violent," he said.
Eldridge said he does not believe the bill would affect his cases, but he said it could change some aspects of a jury trial. In current jury trials, the defense of property or self-defense defenses are based on a person's subjective belief of imminent bodily harm, Eldridge said.
While the bill would take away the requirement that a defendant show they were in fear of imminent bodily harm, Eldridge said he could see more defendants taking the stand to explain their reasoning for using deadly force.
And while the bill would create more protections from home occupants, Eldridge said he does have some concerns.
While there are responsible gun owners, not everyone is a one, he said.
Were it to become law, the bill could also pose some problems with law enforcement.
While House Bill 608 would not apply if the person entering the residence is a firefighter, emergency medical technician, police officer or other emergency personnel, Eldridge proposed a case of an officer in plain clothes serving a no-knock warrant. In most cases where House Bill 608 would be applied, an occupant is making a split-second decision, and it could result in an officer being shot.