Second-degree murder is an intentional killing that wasn't pre-planned or malicious, and therefore not first-degree murder, but wasn't reduced to voluntary manslaughter due to the “heat of passion” circumstances. Think of second-degree murder as the catch-all middle ground for murder. In Maryland, this is particularly true where the legal definition of second-degree murder is a murder that isn’t first degree murder.
Defenses to Second-Degree Murder
Defenses to any homicide charge will be fact specific. However, many possible defenses exist. Although self-representation is a legal right in the United States, having an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side during a murder trial is extremely helpful and will most likely result in a much better outcome. Therefore, discussing the best strategy and defenses with your attorney is recommended.
Some defenses, such as innocence or insanity, if believed by the judge or jury, can result in a not guilty verdict. Other defenses, such as voluntarily becoming intoxicated may be only partial. A partial defense, can only reduce the crime to a lower murder charge, such as voluntary manslaughter, or be a mitigating factor (decreasing criminal responsibility or guilt) in considering sentencing options. Self-defense could be a complete defense, if justified and reasonable, or an incomplete defense that lowers the charge to voluntary manslaughter if the defendant was mistaken in how he or she had to act, such as he or she could’ve used less than deadly force during the incident.
The family of a murder victim can sue a defendant for wrongful death of their loved one, whether or not the defendant was convicted of the crime. This occurred in the O.J. Simpson case. Simpson wasn't convicted of the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson or Ron Goldman, but he did lose his wrongful death lawsuit for millions of dollars. If you're sued for wrongful death, you should speak with an experienced local personal injury defense attorney as soon as possible.
Maryland Second Degree Murder Statute
The following table highlights the main provisions of the second-degree murder statute in Maryland.
|Code Section||Maryland Criminal Law Code, Section 2-204: Murder in the Second Degree|
|What is Prohibited?||Intentionally causing the death of another human being.|
|Penalties||Murder in the second degree in Maryland is a felony with a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.
Maryland abolished the death penalty in 2013. However, even before then, capital punishment was only possible for first-degree murder.
Note: State laws change constantly, it’s important to verify the laws you’re researching by conducting your own research or consulting with a qualified Maryland criminal defense attorney.
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