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Maryland Homicide Laws

Maryland state laws break the crime of murder down into three levels, which are from most to least serious: murder in the first degree, murder in the second degree, and voluntary manslaughter. For more information on how a homicide lawyer in Maryland can help, read here.

Murder in the First Degree Section 2-201

In the state of Maryland, murder in the first degree must fall under one of the following sets of circumstances:

  • The murder must be premeditated, deliberate, and intentional, OR;
  • The murder must be committed by lying in wait for the victim, OR;
  • The murder must be committed by poison, OR;
  • The murder must be committed while the perpetrator is in the middle of committing or attempting to commit one of the following felonies:
  • First degree arson,
  • Burglary (except in burglary in the fourth degree),
  • Carjacking (including armed carjacking),
  • Rape,
  • Kidnapping (see Section 3-502; Section 3-503(a)(2));
  • Mayhem (meaning the criminal act of disfiguring, disabling, cutting off, or making useless a body part of the victim– e.g., eye, arm, hand, foot, etc.),
  • Any sexual offense in the first or second degree,
  • Sodomy,
  • Escape in the first degree from a correctional facility, or;
  • Any violation concerning destructive devices (see Section 4-503).

If a person is guilty of murder in the first degree, the guilty party faces a felony conviction and the penalties of life in prison without possibility of parole, or life in prison. Section 2-201(b)(1). .

Murder in the Second Degree Section 2-204

In the state of Maryland, murder in the second degree encompasses all murder that does not satisfy the requirement for murder in the first degree. Section 2-204(a). For example, if the perpetrator kills another person in a deliberate and intentional manner but without premeditation (see first bullet point in list above), then it would qualify as murder in the second degree. If a person commits murder in the second degree, then that person faces a felony conviction and up to 30 years in prison. Section 2-204(b).

Attempt to Commit Murder Sections 2-205; 2-206

Attempting to kill another person still carries very harsh penalties. If an individual attempts to commit murder in the first degree, that individual faces a felony conviction with a sentence of up to life in prison. Section 2-205. If an individual attempts to commit murder in the second degree, that individual faces a felony conviction with a sentence of up to 30 years in prison. Section 2-206.

Manslaughter Section 2-207

Manslaughter retains its judicially determined meaning, which means that it has kept its common law definition (see a legal definition here). The common law definition for manslaughter is when the perpetrator (1) kills another person (2) without deliberation (i.e. thinking over the act and then deciding to do it) or without the intent to kill, or (3) with mitigating circumstances (like being provoked, being in a fight, or only intending to do bodily harm). However, in the state of Maryland the law explicitly states that discovering one’s spouse committing adultery is not a permissible mitigating factor. Section 2-207(b). This means that it cannot be used to lower a charge from murder in the second degree to voluntary manslaughter. Voluntary manslaughter is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Section 2-207(a)(1). Involuntary manslaughter (e.g., killing someone while driving under the influence of alcohol as a result of being impaired) is also a felony but carries a slightly lesser punishment: up to two years in prison and/or a fine of up to $500. Section 2-207(a)(2).

Negligence Manslaughter Sections 2-209; 2-210

It is illegal for an individual to kill another person as a result of the individual operating a vehicle in a blatantly unsafe manner so grossly negligent that the perpetrator must have known the risk or simply failed to care. In such a case, such conduct is considered manslaughter by vehicle and it is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000. Section 2-209(d). If an individual kills another person as a result of the individual operating a vehicle in a criminally unsafe manner, it is a considered criminally negligent manslaughter by vehicle. Section 2-210(b). Conduct is considered criminally negligent when (1) the driver fails to understand that the driver’s conduct is creating a significant and unjustifiable risk of death to another, and (2) such failure to perceive is a huge deviation from a reasonable drivers’ standard of care. Section 2-210(c). If a driver is guilty of this misdemeanor, then the driver faces up to three years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000. Section 2-210(f).

How a Maryland Homicide Lawyer Can Help

Homicide is obviously a very serious crime. If you are charged with homicide, your life and freedom may be at stake. Contact an experienced Maryland homicide lawyer today.