Maryland considers first-degree murder the most serious type of homicide, i.e., causing the death of another human being, that a perpetrator can commit.
FindLaw explains that Section 2-201 of the Maryland Criminal Law Code defines first-degree murder as the willful and premeditated killing of someone. Premeditated, in turn, means considering your actions prior to the killing and can include lying in wait for your victim or poisoning him or her.
Maryland’s statute also includes felony murder as the basis for a first-degree murder charge. Felony murder means that the prosecution believes you killed someone while committing or attempting to commit a serious crime, including such crimes as the following:
Maryland abolished the death penalty in 2013. Instead, you can face life imprisonment, with or without the possibility of parole, if a jury convicts you of first-degree murder.
Two things must occur before you can receive a sentence of life without parole. First, the prosecutor must notify you and your attorney at least 30 days ahead of time that he or she plans to seek this penalty. Second, the jury unanimously impose this penalty.
Given the dire penalties attached to a first-degree murder conviction, your wisest course of action consists of defending yourself to your greatest ability and that of your criminal defense attorney. Common defenses include the following:
- Mistaken identity, i.e., someone else committed the murder
- Failure of the prosecution to prove all elements of first-degree murder
- Defense of someone else
- Killing in the line of duty
- Temporary insanity
While some of these defenses could earn you an acquittal, others may reduce your conviction to a lesser included offense, such as second-degree murder, voluntary or involuntary homicide, etc.