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Security Personnel Guide to Self-Defense Sprays

This information is provided so that security personnel are aware of the legislative changes surrounding self-defense sprays. Special Police Officers have to be trained in the carrying and deployment of self-defense sprays for law enforcement purposes by a certified instructor, and that certification must be on file at the Security Officers Management Branch. Security Officers are prohibited by law from possessing self-defense sprays during the course of their duties. 17 DCMR § 2120.1(g) (2017).

District law allows any person, regardless of age, to possess and use a self-defense spray (e.g. Mace) without registration. Any person may use a self-defense spray in the exercise of reasonable force in defense of a person or the person’s property. Individuals in the District may only use a specific composition of self-defense spray as defined in the DC Official Code (§7-2502.12). The self-defense sprays must only be propelled from an aerosol container, labeled with or accompanied by clearly written instructions as to its use, and dated to indicate its anticipated useful life.

Persons convicted of wrongful possession or use of self-defense sprays may be sentenced to a fine of up to $2,500, one year in prison, or both.

Security personnel should be aware of the misuse or unintended use of self-defense sprays deployed at facilities where they work. An affected individual may experience nasal discharge, swelling, shortness of breath, painful burning skin, or hyperventilation that while temporary may necessitate first aid.

This article is part of the MPD’s “Security Snapshot” series, which is designed for security personnel working in the District of Columbia. While this information may be of interest to the general public, any recommendations or guidance in these articles has been created with a focus on security personnel.