In Maryland, as in most states in the United States, there are different degrees of criminal homicide: murder and manslaughter. While both of these crimes involve taking another person’s life, the two have important differences. This article will explore the differences between murder and manslaughter in Maryland and the penalties for each.
Murder is the most serious form of criminal homicide in Maryland. Murder is the “unlawful killing of another human being with malice aforethought.” This means that the perpetrator of the crime intended to kill or cause serious bodily harm to the victim.
In Maryland, murder is divided into two degrees: first-degree murder and second-degree murder.
First-degree murder is the most serious form of murder in Maryland. It is defined as intentionally killing another person with premeditation and deliberation. This means the perpetrator planned the killing and acted specifically to cause the victim’s death.
If a murder occurs when someone commits one of the crimes below, it can also be considered first-degree murder.
- First-degree arson
- Any degree burglary
- Carjacking (armed or unarmed)
- First-degree escape from a correctional facility
- First or second-degree sexual offenses
- Mayhem (the act of disfiguring a body)
- Manufacturing (or possessing) a destructive device
In 2013, Maryland abolished the death penalty for someone convicted of first-degree murder. Therefore, the most severe sentence they can receive is life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. (Maryland Code, Criminal Law § 2-201)
Second-degree murder is the intentional killing of another person without premeditation or deliberation. This means that the perpetrator did not plan the killing beforehand but still acted with the intent to cause the victim’s death.
The penalty for second-degree murder in Maryland is a maximum of 30 years in prison. (Maryland Code, Criminal Law § 2-204)
Manslaughter is a less serious form of criminal homicide than murder but is still considered a felony. It’s defined as the “unlawful killing of another person without malice aforethought.” This means that the perpetrator did not intend to kill or cause serious bodily harm to the victim.
Manslaughter is divided into two categories: voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter. The penalties for manslaughter include up to 10 years in prison and a $500 fine. (Maryland Code, Criminal Law § 2-207)
Voluntary manslaughter occurs when the perpetrator kills another person in the heat of passion or in response to a reasonable provocation. This means that the perpetrator was provoked by the victim or another person and that the killing occurred while the perpetrator was still under the influence of the provocation. In addition, the provocation must be such that it would cause a reasonable person to lose control of their emotions.
Involuntary manslaughter occurs when the perpetrator kills another person due to criminal negligence or reckless behavior. This means that the perpetrator did not intend to cause the victim’s death, but their actions were so reckless or negligent that they created a high risk of death or serious bodily injury.
Vehicular manslaughter is an involuntary manslaughter charge. It occurs when there is a fatality in a motor vehicle accident caused by distracted or reckless driving or a DUI (driving under the influence). There are two types of vehicular manslaughter: gross negligence (Maryland Criminal Code § 2-209) and criminal negligence (Maryland Criminal Code § 2-210).
The Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter
The key difference between murder and manslaughter in Maryland is the presence or absence of malice aforethought. Malice aforethought is the intent to kill or cause serious bodily harm to another person. If the perpetrator had this intent, then the crime is murder. If the perpetrator did not have this intent, the crime is manslaughter.
Another important difference between murder and manslaughter in Maryland is the level of culpability. Murder requires a higher level of culpability than manslaughter. To be convicted of murder, the perpetrator must have acted with premeditation and deliberation or intended to cause serious bodily harm. Involuntary manslaughter, on the other hand, only requires criminal negligence or reckless behavior.
Get the Representation You Deserve With Jeremy Widder Law
Whether a crime is a murder or manslaughter will depend on the facts of the case and the evidence presented. It’s up to the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime of murder or manslaughter, and it is up to the judge or jury to make the final determination of guilt or innocence. Therefore, seeking the services of an experienced criminal defense attorney is vital.
At Jeremy Widder Law, we have experience representing hundreds of clients charged with offenses ranging from DUI to murder. We know your case deserves to be heard, and we will work with you to build a strong defense and protect your rights throughout the legal process.
Contact us today for a consultation.