All types of pepper spray are legal in the state of Maryland. However, the substance is classified as a dangerous weapon, and there are strict laws regulating who can buy, carry and use it. Generally, a person carrying pepper spray must be over the age of 18 and cannot have any felony convictions on record. The spray itself can be used only for self defense, and law enforcement officials have the power to arrest someone who is carrying pepper spray with the intention of causing harm.
Pepper Spray Is a Dangerous Weapon
Pepper spray is an aerosol product containing the chemical oleoresin capsicum, a concentrated version of the irritant found in chili peppers. As a personal protection device, it's intended to incapacitate assailants when used in self-defense.
Pepper spray is legal in all 50 states including Maryland. However, since pepper spray can cause serious harm in the wrong hands, it is categorized as a dangerous weapon under Maryland law. This puts it in the same category as tear gas, nunchucks and brass knuckles. Unsurprisingly, there are strict laws regarding who can purchase, carry and use pepper spray, and in what situations.
Who Can Buy Pepper Spray?
To legally buy and carry pepper spray in Maryland, you must be:
- An adult over the age of 18.
- Not a convicted felon.
- Carrying it for self-defense.
Some states have much stricter laws relating to the purchase and use of pepper spray. In Massachusetts, for example, pepper spray can be bought only by someone with a legal firearm permit obtained from the local police. Residents of Hawaii may purchase only half-ounce canisters of pepper spray, and they must be bought through a licensed dealer.
Legal Only for Self Defense
In Maryland, individuals are permitted to carry pepper spray as a reasonable precaution against an attack. They are not permitted to carry the spray with the intention of injuring someone in an unlawful manner. This means that the use of pepper spray is lawful only when used in self defense.
The main concern when using pepper spray for self-defense is whether excessive force has been applied against the attacker. As a general rule, the person who is being attacked may only use a level of force that’s commensurate with the force being used against him. In other words, a person must act reasonably and cannot assume that using the pepper spray on an attacker will always constitute self defense.
If the attacker is causing actual physical harm or is carrying a weapon, for example, it probably would be appropriate to dispense the spray in the assailant's direction to ward off an attack. However, if the same person used the pepper spray when there was no sign of assault or aggression, then that person could be said to be using excessive force. Self-defense is not a get-out-of-jail-free card, and a court or prosecutor will determine whether someone had a good reason to use pepper spray in a particular situation.
Penalties for Using Pepper Spray in Maryland
Carrying or using pepper spray with the intent to attack or injure someone is a serious crime in Maryland. If convicted, the person faces up to three years imprisonment and a fine up to $1,000. Adults who give pepper spray to a minor child face a fine up to $1,000 or a year in county jail.
Jayne Thompson earned an LL.B. in Law and Business Administration from the University of Birmingham and an LL.M. in International Law from the University of East London. She practiced in various “Big Law” firms before launching a career as a commercial writer. Her work has appeared on numerous legal blogs including Quittance, Upcounsel and Medical Negligence Experts.