A homicide charge is one of the most serious offenses that a person can face in Maryland. If you are facing such a charge, the best decision you can make is to seek the assistance of a seasoned criminal defense attorney to help defend against your charge.

Forms of Homicide

In Maryland, there are several forms of homicide a person can be charged with, depending on the circumstances surrounding the killing.

Murder in the First Degree

According to §2-201 of the Maryland Criminal Code, homicide can be categorized as murder in the first degree if:

  • the killing was deliberate, premeditated, and willful;
  • the killing was committed by someone lying in wait;
  • the victim was poisoned; or
  • the killing was committed while carrying out or attempting to commit a "crime of violence" such as arson, carjacking, kidnapping, rape, or robbery.

Murder in the Second Degree

A charge of murder in the second degree is essentially a catch-all charge that encompasses any murder not committed under one of the circumstances listed above. A person who becomes enraged and kills a person shortly after with no time to plan the crime, for example, lacks the element of premeditation. Similarly, a person who commits an act that results in a victim's death will be considered second-degree murder if the person did not intend on anyone being killed by the act.


There are two forms of manslaughter in Maryland--voluntary and involuntary. Manslaughter is not defined by statute; rather, it is a common-law crime, meaning its definition has been adapted from previous cases.

Voluntary manslaughter is an act of killing that results from adequate provocation without enough time to cool down from the provocation. These crimes are often referred to as "heat of passion" crimes. In some states, a killing stemming from finding a spouse engaged in an adulterous act can be lowered to a charge of voluntary manslaughter. In Maryland, however, the law specifically states that this situation would not result in a reduction from a murder charge to one of manslaughter.

Involuntary manslaughter occurs when a person is unintentionally killed while someone is engaging in an unlawful or reckless act. One of the most common scenarios that can lead to a charge of involuntary manslaughter stems from operating a vehicle or boat in such a grossly negligent manner it results in the death of another person. Grossly negligent acts can include driving while drunk or excessive speeding.

Attempt to Commit Murder

In Maryland, a person does not escape punishment for a homicide charge just because he or she did not or was not able to carry out the crime. An attempt to commit a homicide is a charge in and of itself.

Penalties for a Conviction of Homicide

If found guilty of a homicide charge, the sentence that you can face depends on the form of homicide you committed.

Murder in the First Degree

In Maryland, those who are convicted of murder in the first degree will be sentenced to:

  • Imprisonment for life; or
  • Imprisonment for life without the possibility of parole.

As of 2013, those who have been convicted of murder in the first degree face no death penalty in Maryland. The sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole is still alive and well in the state, though, and can be imposed if a jury unanimously decides that this specific punishment should be imposed. If a jury is unable to unanimously agree that a person should be ineligible for parole, then a life sentence is imposed by the court.

Murder in the Second Degree

While murder in the first degree carries the highest penalty upon conviction, a second-degree murder conviction can lead to hefty prison sentences and severe consequences as well. Anyone who is convicted of murder in the second degree is guilty of a felony and can face a prison sentence of up to 40 years.

Attempt to Commit Murder

A person who is convicted of an attempt to commit murder in the second degree faces a felony conviction and a prison sentence for as long as 30 years. The stakes are even higher for those who attempt to commit murder in the first degree; if convicted, they can face imprisonment for life.


A person who is convicted of manslaughter can face a prison sentence of up to 10 years or imprisonment in a local jail for up to 2 years along with a fine of up to $500.

Defense Strategies for a Homicide Charge

If you are facing a homicide charge, a criminal defense attorney may be able to assert a legal defense that can have a positive impact on the outcome of your case.

Wrong Person Charged

In some cases, those who are facing a homicide charge were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. If you were present in a location where a homicide occurred, you may be a prime suspect for the crime. Similarly, if an eyewitness saw the homicide and gave a description of the perpetrator, you may have been charged because you resemble the person who actually committed the crime.

Improper Procedure

Sometimes, a procedural hiccup in your case can have a beneficial impact on your sentence. For example, in order to be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, Maryland law states that "at least 30 days before trial, the State [shall give] written notice to the defendant of the State's intention to seek a sentence of imprisonment for life without the possibility of parole." Such notice is mandatory and must be complied with by the state. If you are convicted of murder in the first degree and are sentenced to imprisonment for life without the possibility of parole, you may be able to challenge your sentence if the state failed to abide by this rule.

Though this example is not necessarily an example of a defense against the charge, it exemplifies how improper procedure by the State can benefit you, especially if improper procedure occurred while the case was pending.

Violation of the Fourth Amendment

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees everyone in the country the freedom from unlawful searches and seizures by a police officer. If you were arrested and charged with a homicide offense following an unlawful search--such as a search of your house without a warrant--your attorney may be able to have the evidence police obtained from the unlawful search excluded from the trial of your case.

Charged with Homicide? We're Here to Help

If you are facing a homicide charge in the state of Maryland, the time to seek legal representation from an experienced criminal defense attorney is now. You don't have to fight your charge alone nor should you try to do so--when facing a homicide charge, the rest of your life is at stake. James Peters is dedicated to providing those who face criminal charges the representation they deserve to defend against their charge. Don't wait until it is too late to seek legal help--to speak with a member of our legal team about your charge, fill out an online contact form or call 833-252-2256 today.