Like all other states, Maryland categorizes the crime of murder into several degrees. You may be charged with first or second degrees of murder or manslaughter. It all depends on the circumstances of your offense.
These degrees of offenses are vastly different, at least in the eyes of the law, and have varying legal definitions and penalties. Perhaps the only similarity among them is that they are all very serious offenses, and you may spend years in jail if convicted.
The differences explained
Under Maryland law, murder in the first degree occurs if it is a result of a premeditated, deliberate or willful killing or if it’s committed lying in wait or by poison. Murder is committed in the perpetration of certain violent crimes like arson in the first degree, carjacking or rape, among others. Conspiracy to commit first-degree murder also falls under this category.
Murder is in the second degree if there is no premeditation or intent to kill. It’s a murder that has not been thought through or planned out.
The last degree of murder, manslaughter, is an accidental death caused by the reckless, negligent or criminal acts of another. Death by auto or vehicular homicide is an example.
As mentioned, the penalties are different. For instance, you may face life imprisonment without parole for first-degree murder, up to 40 years for second-degree murder and a maximum of 10 years for third-degree murder.
Your defense is key
If you are facing any of these murder charges, you likely understand the gravity of the situation. However, a conviction is not guaranteed since the prosecution must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Therefore, it is in your best interests to have adequate legal counsel to help you navigate your case and increase your chances of a desirable verdict.