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Understanding more about homicide charges here in Maryland

The enduring popularity of the network crime drama has helped ensure that generations of Americans are familiar with not only the complexities of police work, but also some of the terms and procedures commonly utilized in criminal trials.

As encouraging as this is, these weekly serials really only scratch the surface of what otherwise important terms like "Miranda rights," "grand jury," and even "murder" really mean.

In light of this reality, today's post will address what "second-degree depraved heart murder" -- a very serious charge that has been in the news due to recent events here in Maryland -- actually means.

First and foremost, it's imperative to understand that there are several degrees of homicide charges and that these charges vary in severity. For instance, first-degree murder charges are the most serious charges a person can face and can result in life in prison, while manslaughter charges, also incredibly serious, can result in up to ten years in prison.

Here, the difference is typically that the first-degree murder charges involve some element of premeditation, while the manslaughter charges involve someone perhaps losing control of their emotions in the heat of the moment.

Second-degree murder charges fall somewhere in the middle, meaning it doesn't involve the element of premeditation but can be punishable by up to 30 years in prison.      

As for the charge of second-degree depraved heart murder, this essentially means that a defendant stands accused of demonstrating an extreme disregard or total indifference for the life of another.

Indeed, jury instructions in the state of Maryland dictate that the following elements must be present in order to convict a defendant of second-degree depraved heart murder:

  • The defendant caused the death of an individual
  • The defendant created a very high risk to the life of an individual through their conduct.
  • The defendant knowingly acted with extreme disregard or total indifference for the life of the individual.  

While the point in sharing this information is to help people better understand how our state's justice system works, it also serves to demonstrate just how serious these types of charges can be. Indeed, anyone facing charges for any sort of violent crime should strongly consider speaking with a skilled, aggressive and experienced attorney as soon as possible as their freedom and their future are on the line.

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