Maryland Pepper Spray Laws

By Brian Shane - Updated June 08, 2017
Woman Holding Pepper Spray

In Maryland, pepper spray means an aerosol-propelled combination of highly disabling irritant pepper-based products. It's also referred to as oleoresin capsicum, or O.C. spray. Carrying a concealed canister of pepper spray in Maryland is not automatically against the law; there are times when it's illegal, and there are times when you won't be criminally charged for carrying or using it. What makes the difference is the circumstances under which you're doing so.

Use and Exceptions

Pepper spray is categorized as a dangerous weapon under Maryland law, along with weapons like nunchuks, throwing stars and brass knuckles. Therefore, going by the letter of the law, it is illegal to carry pepper spray.

However, an exception applies to people who carry pepper spray "as a reasonable precaution" when they face anticipated threats to their safety.

Essentially, the law allows you to walk through that proverbial dangerous part of town with a can of pepper spray in your purse or pocket as a precaution against the seedy alley-dwellers who would mug them, attack them or worse.

But crying self-defense isn't a catch-all. The law says it's up to the court to decide whether a person was "reasonable" in carrying pepper spray. That means a public official like a police officer, prosecutor, or judge gets to decide whether you had good reason to carry or use pepper spray on someone else.

Other exceptions include police officers, who may carry pepper spray if it's considered a part of their uniform. Anyone with a Maryland handgun permit may have pepper spray. State law also says a special agent of a railroad is allowed to carry pepper spray.

Penalties

Maryland law explicitly states that a person may not carry pepper spray with the "intent or purpose" of hurting someone else unlawfully.

If you're caught carrying concealed pepper spray, or if you're caught using pepper spray as a weapon to purposely injure another person, then you could face penalties that can be imposed by a district or circuit court judge.

A person convicted of carrying pepper spray with the intent to injure, or using pepper spray to attack another, is guilty of a misdemeanor. The law says if it appears from the evidence that the weapon was carried, concealed or openly, with the deliberate purpose of injuring or killing another, the court shall impose the highest sentence of imprisonment prescribed -- that's up to three years imprisonment, a fine up to $1,000, or both.

Minors

For minors, possession of pepper mace or pepper spray is a criminal charge, but does not carry automatic adult jurisdiction. Juveniles caught carrying or using pepper spray as a weapon are subject to the authority of a judge.

It is illegal for adults to provide pepper spray to a minor. Anyone found guilty of that risks a year in jail, a fine up to $1,000 or both.

About the Author

Brian Shane is a newspaper reporter and freelance writer based on Maryland's Eastern Shore. He began his career as a writer in 2000. Shane writes for "The (Salisbury) Daily Times" and the "Worcester County Times." He also is a former freelancer for the "Chicago Tribune." He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from the journalism program at the University of Maryland, College Park.

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