DUI Homicide and Manslaughter
The term “homicide” generally describes any unlawful killing of one human being by another. Like other states, Maryland separates homicides into different categories by type, with different penalties, depending on the circumstances of the incident.
The most severe penalties are applied to those found guilty of first-degree murder. Section 2-201 of the Maryland Criminal Code defines first-degree murder as “a deliberate, premeditated, and willful killing” that may be committed in multiple ways, such as by lying in wait, by poisoning, or during the commission of one of a list of other felonies.
Though the state of Maryland abolished the death penalty in 2013, punishment for a conviction of first-degree murder is severe, often carrying the penalty of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
In Section 2-204, Maryland’s criminal law defines second-degree murder as “a murder that is not in the first degree under section 2-201.” Penalties for those convicted of second-degree murder are also severe, with the state imposing a sentence of up to 30 years in prison.
Manslaughter is a charge less severe than first- or second-degree murder, potentially resulting in 10 years in prison upon conviction.
Manslaughter charges are defined as either “voluntary” or “involuntary.”
Involuntary manslaughter refers to when a person’s negligence or carelessness causes the death of another. The defendant may not have been aware of the risk they caused, but they should have been. This crime is differentiated from voluntary manslaughter in that there was no intent to harm.
Proving criminal negligence in an involuntary manslaughter case involves more stringent requirements than in a civil negligence case. In a criminal case, it must be shown that the defendant behaved in a seriously unreasonable manner or with gross negligence.
In contrast, the charge of voluntary manslaughter means the accused intentionally caused the death of another person without forethought. This means there was no premeditation, and the death was the result of a provocation or the result of a fight, and happened “in the heat of the moment.” Thus, even though the killing was intentional or a likely outcome, the level of blameworthiness is mitigated by the person’s emotional state at the time.
Vehicular manslaughter is gross negligence when operating a vehicle or vessel. It applies to a person who causes someone else’s death by driving or controlling a vehicle or boat “in a grossly negligent manner.” Though vehicular manslaughter is considered an involuntary manslaughter charge, it may fall into the category of vehicular homicide, depending on several factors, including whether the death occurred during the commission of a felony crime. A conviction for this charge is subject to a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.
Helping You Avoid Harsh Criminal Penalties
As you can tell, under Maryland state law, a homicide charge will fall within a spectrum of severity. Whether you are charged with manslaughter, second-degree murder, or first-degree murder depends on the circumstances, as well as what prosecutors think they can prove to a jury.
Penalties for homicide crimes at the felony level are often severe, involving decades of prison time and steep fines. There is also the potential for prosecutors to inflate charges to increase the penalties applied to a sentence. A few factors that will increase penalties in a homicide charge include:
- The use of a gun in the commission of the crime
- Injury to a law enforcement officer during the commission of the crime
- When the murder took place during the commission of other felony crimes
The serious nature of any homicide charge should not be undertaken without the assistance of a homicide defense attorney. At Alpert Schreyer, our experienced Maryland homicide defense attorneys can create an aggressive defense to protect your rights and pursue the best possible outcome in your case. Our attorneys excel in minimizing the impacts of serious charges through examination of mitigating factors.
Mistakes to Avoid in Your Homicide Case
If you’ve been charged with any type of homicide, it’s important to be aware of and avoid the common mistakes below.
Being arrested is a scary process that usually triggers the body’s “fight or flight” response. This reaction involves a surge of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol into the system. Even when not acted upon, the presence of these hormones in the bloodstream causes a jolt of energy and stamina.
Originally used by early humans to outrun or fight off large predators, this ancient biological reaction still triggers the urge to flee. It’s your body’s way of trying to save you from a threat. Unfortunately, fighting or fleeing when being arrested will incur additional charges at best. At worst, someone could be killed — most likely you.
While the fight or flight response is your body’s automatic reaction to stress, being aware of what’s happening biologically can help you resist this natural urge to run or fight. The safest thing you can do if you are arrested is comply with the requests of arresting officers and ask for your lawyer.
Talking to the Police without a Lawyer
We’ve gone over the importance of not fighting or running when you are arrested. The next step is to remain silent after the arresting officers read you your rights. If they don’t read you your rights, tell your attorney, as this is a critical breach of procedure that may result in your release, no matter what you’re charged with.
Once your rights are read to you, take them seriously and remain silent. As the Miranda warning says, “Anything you say can and will be used in a court of law.” They are not looking to help you out of jail. They are looking for ways to keep you there. Make sure you take advantage of your right to a legal defense and reach out to our Maryland homicide defense attorneys right away.
Waiting to Hire a Lawyer
Another mistake people often make when arrested is failing to retain a defense lawyer right away. This is sometimes due to concern that doing so will make them look guilty. But if you’ve been charged with a homicide, the “cards are already stacked against you,” meaning the prosecution is probably several steps ahead of you already.
Prosecutors are very protective of their conviction statistics. This means they are wary of filing charges they don’t believe will lead to a conviction. So, if they’ve arrested and charged you, they already think you’re guilty — and they think they can prove it. The sooner you hire an experienced homicide defense attorney, the better prepared that attorney will be to build the strongest possible defense.
Our office prides itself on knowing more about your case than the prosecution. Knowledge is power, and the Maryland homicide defense attorneys at Alpert Schreyer are committed to staying one step ahead of the prosecution.
Being Late To or Skipping Court Appearances
If you are released on bail until your trial, it is imperative that you show up for every court appearance on time.
When you’ve been arrested and charged with homicide, you’re likely starting your case “on your back foot.” Under ideal circumstances, everyone is innocent until proven guilty. But the officers of the court don’t know who you are as a person or all the great things you’ve done to help others throughout your life. All they know is that you’ve been charged with a homicide, and this can lead to the unconscious bias that “you must have done something serious to be charged with homicide.”
If you are late to court — or worse, miss a court date, you can only damage the court’s opinion of you. When you work with Alpert Schreyer, we’ll get to work right away to try and reduce your charges or even have them dismissed. If necessary, we’ll fight for your rights all the way to court. But until your case is resolved pre-trial or it goes to trial, do your part to help neutralize the court’s opinion of you by showing yourself to be reliable and respecting of the court officers’ time. Be where you are supposed to be when you are required to be there.
Talking To Family and Friends about Your Case
When you’ve been released on bail, it’s tempting to seek comfort by venting to family and friends about your case. You may feel the pull to declare your innocence to them, whether in person or on social media. They, in turn, are likely to try to help by offering their advice. But because your loved ones probably don’t know much about the law, it’s best to ignore legal advice from anyone but your homicide defense attorneys.
In addition, sharing details of your case with anyone but your spouse or legal team puts them in jeopardy of being subpoenaed by the prosecution to testify against you. Don’t put your relationships under this kind of strain. Save your legal discussions for your attorneys. You can come to us to vent and talk out your stress. We understand exactly what you’re facing, and we’re here for you.
Just as it’s natural to feel the jolt of the fight or flight response upon arrest, you may feel it again when released on bail. This is once again the body’s natural response to feeling threatened — in this case by a potential jail sentence. Once again, you must resist the urge to physically flee.
This goes back to making the best possible impression on the court. Even when you’ve posted bond to get out until trial, they are trusting you to adhere to the law and show up for your court dates. If you miss a court appearance and the person who vouched for you by providing collateral doesn’t know where to find you, you’re headed for trouble.
While there is sometimes a grace period in which to locate a person and get them to court, you are again gambling with the court’s opinion of you. And when it comes to a charge as serious as homicide, expect to be gambling with your freedom.
You must assume that if you miss court and vanish, your bail will be revoked, and a bench warrant will be issued. This means you are now being sought for return to jail. It also means the loved one who vouched for you by putting up collateral is going to lose that collateral, whether it’s a house, a vehicle, jewelry, or another valuable. They may also be required to pay a bounty hunter’s fees to come and find you.
Moreover, fleeing will make you look guilty — not just in court, but in the “court of public opinion.” You’ve got to remember that if your case goes to trial, it will be decided by a jury. If they discover you fled, they, too, may be biased to assume you are guilty, even though they are instructed not to make assumptions. Human nature being what it is, fleeing will only put you on the fast track to a guilty verdict.
The best thing you can do if you’re released on bail is stay in town and communicate your concerns and questions to your Maryland homicide defense attorneys. We’re here to guide you through this and get you the best possible result.
“This office will leave no stone unturned in trying to get the best possible result for our clients in court.”
— Andrew Alpert
Call Our Maryland Homicide Attorneys Today
If you have been arrested on a homicide charge in Maryland, don’t roll the dice. We want to answer your questions and guide you to the best possible outcome. Call the Maryland homicide defense attorneys at Alpert Schreyer today.