Maryland’s Vehicular Homicide and Manslaughter Laws and Penalties

A motorist who drives with negligence or while under the influence and kills another person will likely face vehicular homicide or manslaughter charges.

Maryland has four types of vehicular homicide:

  • manslaughter by vehicle
  • criminally negligent manslaughter by vehicle
  • homicide by motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, and
  • homicide by motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol, drugs, or a controlled substance.

Maryland defines manslaughter by vehicle as causing the death of another person while driving in a “grossly negligent” manner. Criminally negligent manslaughter by vehicle—a less serious offense—involves killing another person while driving with “criminal negligence.”

To prove gross negligence, the prosecution must show that the defendant was aware of but consciously disregarded the risk to human life posed by his or her conduct. With criminal negligence, on the other hand, the defendant should have been but wasn’t aware that his or her conduct created a “substantial and unjustifiable risk” to human life.

The other two types of vehicular homicide are DUI/DWI-related. Under-the-influence-of-alcohol vehicular homicide is where the defendant kills another person while driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more or while “substantially impaired” by alcohol. Impaired vehicular homicide involves causing the death of another while your “normal coordination” is affected by alcohol, drugs, or a controlled substance.

(Md. Code Ann., Crim. Law §§ 2-209, 2-210, 2-503, 2-504, 2-505, 2-506 (2017).)

Vehicular Homicide Penalties

The consequences of a vehicular homicide conviction depend on the circumstances. But generally, the possible penalties are:

  • Manslaughter by vehicle. Manslaughter by vehicle is a felony. A conviction generally carries up to ten years in prison and/or a maximum $5,000 in fines. But a defendant with a prior vehicular manslaughter or homicide conviction faces up to 15 years in prison and/or a maximum $10,000 in fines. 
  • Criminally negligent manslaughter by vehicle. Criminally negligent manslaughter by vehicle is a misdemeanor. Convicted motorists are looking at up to three years in jail and/or a maximum $5,000 in fines. However, a defendant who has a prior vehicular manslaughter or homicide conviction is guilty of a felony and faces up to five years in prison and/or a maximum $10,000 in fines.
  • Homicide by motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. Homicide by motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol is a felony. First offenders face up to five years in prison and/or a maximum $5,000 in fines. On a second conviction, the offender is looking at up to ten years in prison and/or a maximum $10,000 in fines.
  • Homicide by motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol, drugs, or a controlled substance. Homicide by motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol, drugs, or a controlled substance is a felony. First offenders face up to three years in prison and/or a maximum $5,000 in fines. On a second conviction, the offender is looking at up to five years in prison and/or a maximum $10,000 in fines.

(Md. Code Ann., Crim. Law §§ 2-209, 2-210, 2-503, 2-504, 2-505, 2-506 (2017).)

HOW MUCH TIME WOULD YOU ACTUALLY SPEND IN JAIL?

Sentencing law is complex. For example, a statute might list a “minimum” jail sentence that’s longer than the actual amount of time (if any) a defendant will have to spend behind bars. All kinds of factors can affect actual punishment, including credits for good in-custody behavior, “suspended” sentences, and jail-alternative work programs.

If you face criminal charges, consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer. An attorney with command of the rules in your jurisdiction will be able to explain the law as it applies to your situation.

Talk to a Criminal Defense Attorney

Vehicular homicide and manslaughter are serious criminal charges. If you’ve been arrested for vehicular homicide or manslaughter—or any other crime—get in contact with a criminal defense attorney right away. The facts of every case are different. An experienced defense attorney can explain how the law applies to the facts of your case and help you decide on the best plan of action.

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