Is it Legal to Carry Pepper Spray or Mace in Maryland?

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It’s illegal to carry many weapons under Maryland law. The statutes list dangerous weapons that include pepper spray or mace. But what happens if you use sprays to fight back against an attacker or a rapist?

The question is it legal to carry pepper spray or mace in Maryland depends on the circumstances involved.

In certain cases, it is legal to carry pepper spray or mace in Maryland. A law enforcement officer may still arrest you. Int his article, Baltimore criminal defense lawyer Randolph Rice talks about your rights regarding carrying pepper spray in Maryland.

How is Pepper Spray and Mace in Maryland Classified?

Pepper spray and mace are categorized as dangerous weapons under Maryland law. As such they are in the same category as brass knuckles, nunchucks, tear gas devices, and throwing stars.

The law states that a person may not wear or carry a dangerous weapon, pepper mace, chemical mace, or a tear gas device openly with the intent or purpose of injuring an individual in an unlawful manner. 

The paragraph applies in Baltimore County, Anne Arundel County, Caroline County, Cecil County, Kent County, Harford County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, St. Mary’s County, Talbot County, Washington County, and Worcester County.

What is Pepper Spray and Mace?

Mace and pepper-spray are aerosol products used for self-defense. They both contain oleoresin capsicum (OC). The weapons are packed with powerful, irritating and incapacitating chemicals that are found in chili peppers. They are legal in all states in specific circumstances.

However, both pepper spray and mace can be very dangerous in the wrong hands. Capsaicin is present in pepper spray at a much higher concentration than in chilies.

According to Medical News Today, the heat of a bell pepper measures 0 on the Scoville Heat Units scale. This is a means of measuring the “heat” of peppers. A jalapeño pepper scores 2,500 to 5,000 on the scale.

The heat of pepper spray ranges from 2 million units to 5.3 million Scoville Heat Units in commercial pepper sprays. The authorities classify pepper spray as a riot-control agent.

Pepper spray and mace are linked to a range of side effects including, at the most extreme, hypertension, stroke, and heart attack.

When is Carrying Pepper Spray Allowed in Maryland?

Maryland law makes an exception when people carry pepper spray and mace as a “reasonable precaution” against an anticipated threat to their safety. The law allows you to carry a hidden pepper spray or container of mace. However, you are not permitted to carry it with the “intent or purpose” of harming another person.

People who use pepper spray or mace often claim self-defense but this isn’t a catch-all defense. A law enforcement officer, a prosecutor, or a judge will decide whether you had a good reason to carry or use pepper spray or mace.

Some states have stricter laws relating to mace and pepper spray than Maryland. In Massachusetts, for example, self-defense sprays are classified as “ammunition.” They must be bought from a licensed firearms dealer and carried by someone with a legal firearm permit obtained from a police department.

In California, civilians can only carry up to 2.5 ounces of mace or pepper spray. Misuse of these weapons can result in heavy weapons charges, fines,and up to three years in prison. Hawaii only allows for half an ounce canisters of pepper spray, and they must be bought through a licensed dealer.

Who Can Buy Pepper Spray or Mace?

People who buy pepper spray and mace in Baltimore must be:

  • Over 18 years of age
  • Not a convicted felon
  • Only buy the product for self-defense.

People Who Are Allowed to Carry Prohibited Weapons

The law does not prohibit the following individuals from carrying a weapon like pepper spray or mace.

  • Officers of the state, or of any county or municipal corporation or school resource officer who is required or entitled to carry the weapon as part of the officer’s official equipment, or by any “conservator of the peace” entitled or required to carry the weapon as part of his or her official equipment.
  • A special agent for a railroad
  • The holder of a permit to carry a handgun issued under Title 5, Subtitle 3 of the Public Safety Article; or
  • An individual who carries the weapon as a reasonable precaution against possible danger, subject to the right of the court in an action to judge the reasonableness of the carrying of the weapon, and the proper occasion for carrying it, after considering all the evidence in the case.

Serious Charges Associated with Pepper Spray in Baltimore, MD

The news media is rife with reports of pepper spray and mace being misused in schools in Baltimore and other parts of Maryland. In 2018, dozens of people were treated for personal injuries at Southwest Academy after pepper spray was sprayed in the cafeteria.

Baltimore County police told the local media a 12-year-old boy sprayed pepper spray. He was charged as a juvenile with possession of a dangerous weapon. Police said the student found the pepper spray and then sprayed it in the cafeteria. In the same year, a teacher was pepper sprayed at Dunbar High School in East Baltimore as she tried to break up a fight.

Possession of weapons such as knives, guns, mace, and pepper spray is banned in schools in Baltimore and elsewhere and is likely to lead to expulsion and possible criminal charges.

Pepper spray and mace cannot be taken into court buildings or carried in hand luggage on airplanes.

Penalties for Carrying or Using Pepper Spray or Mace in Maryland

A person convicted of carrying pepper spray or mace with the intent to injure, or use this harmful spray to attack another person is guilty of a misdemeanor. The law says if it appears that the weapon was carried, with the deliberate purpose of injuring or killing another person, the court shall impose the highest sentence of imprisonment prescribed — up to three years and a fine up to $1,000, or both.

It’s unlawful for minors to possess pepper mace or pepper spray in Baltimore, but the offense does not carry automatic adult jurisdiction. Juveniles caught carrying or using mace or pepper spray as a weapon faces criminal charges.

Adults who provide pepper spray to a minor face year in jail, a fine up to $1,000 or both.

Talk to Our Baltimore Criminal Defense Lawyer About Your Pepper Spray Charges

Do not assume the criminal justice system will protect you if you are arrested for carrying pepper spray or mace in Maryland. A police officer, judge, or jury may not agree you were carrying the chemicals for self-defense.

A Maryland criminal defense attorney is familiar with the workings of the court system. He will make sure your rights are protected. Please contact Rice, Murtha & Psoras at (410) 834-3845 or email the office for immediate legal help.

Attorney Randolph Rice is an experienced Maryland Criminal Defense Attorney.  He is a former Assistant State’s Attorney. He prosecuted individuals for carrying or wearing dangerous weapons in Maryland.  

Since 2009 he has been a private criminal defense attorney defending people charged with wearing or carrying a dangerous weapon in Maryland.


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