Involuntary manslaughter, sometimes known as “criminally negligent homicide” is an accidental killing caused by a person’s criminally liable recklessness or criminal negligence. In Maryland, although there is a manslaughter statute, manslaughter itself isn’t defined in the statute. Manslaughter is a common law (created by cases) crime in Maryland and can be either voluntary or involuntary, depending on the intent. Generally, under the common law in Maryland, involuntary manslaughter is the killing of another unintentionally while doing an unlawful act (not a felony), a negligent act, or by negligently failing to perform a legal duty.
A common form of involuntary manslaughter is vehicular homicide or killing someone as a result of driving a car, motorcycle, boat, or other vessel due to either serious negligence or recklessness. Maryland does have statutes to address homicides caused by any type of bad driving, including drunk driving.
Drinking and driving often kills. When it does, it’s considered a homicide caused by the drunk driver’s negligent operating of the vehicle. Maryland has four different statutes to address intoxicated driving cases that result in death.
Another form of homicide that has a lower penalty than murder, or even vehicular manslaughter, is assisting another commit suicide. This is purposefully assisting another by coercion, duress, or knowingly providing the physical means to or participating in the physical act of committing suicide. It's a felony that can be punished up to one year imprisonment and a fine not more than $10,000.
Maryland Involuntary Manslaughter Statutes
The table below highlights the main aspects of Maryland’s involuntary manslaughter law.
Maryland Criminal Law Article Sections:
||Causing the death of another person through gross negligent or criminal negligent behavior, including the driving of a vehicle while using alcohol or drugs, street racing, or other behavior that disregards the risks to human life.
The distinction between “gross negligence” and “criminal negligence” is degree of awareness of the risky behavior. With gross negligence, the defendant is conscious of the risk to human life that his or her behavior creates, but acts with disregard for the human life. Criminal negligence is when the defendant should’ve been aware, but failed to perceive the substantial and unjustifiable risk to human life that his or her behavior created, and failed to see the risk was unreasonable.
The four different types of vehicular homicide are defined as either “under the influence” or “impaired” by alcohol or drugs. Under the influence “per se” is defined as testing at .08 blood alcohol concentration at the time of the accident. However, you can be found under the influence or impaired even at a lower BAC or for being impaired by using a drug. Drugs include “controlled dangerous substances,” defined by Maryland law as a drug (or its similar substance or precursor) listed in the Drug Schedule I to V in the Controlled Substance Act.
The penalty in Maryland will depend on the specific crime and degree of responsibility found to apply by the judge or jury. The maximum sentences for the various involuntary manslaughter or vehicular homicides are:
- Manslaughter (including involuntary) is a felony that can be punished by up to 10 years imprisonment and a $500 fine.
- Vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence is a felony that can be punished by up to 10 years in prison and a $5,000 fine or both.
- Vehicular manslaughter with criminal negligence is a misdemeanor that can be punished by up to 3 years in prison and a fine up to $5,000.
- Vehicular homicide while under the influence of alcohol is a felony subject to up to 5 years of prison and up to $5,000.
- Vehicular homicide while impaired by alcohol, drugs, or a controlled dangerous substance is a felony punishable by up to 3 years imprisonment and a fine up to $5,000.
Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, rulings in the higher courts (including federal decisions), ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.
Charged with Involuntary Manslaughter in Maryland? Get Legal Help
There are very few criminal charges as serious as homicide. Even though involuntary manslaughter is not as serious a crime as murder, a conviction can result in a prison sentence as well as enormous fines. Contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in Maryland to discuss your case's merits and possible defenses.