In Maryland, there are varying degrees of murder. After all, sometimes a murder is committed in the heat of passion, or sometimes it is a deliberate act. It is important to understand that not every killing is automatically first-degree murder.
When one person kills another, the crime will be considered first-degree murder if the following elements are met. First, the murder must be deliberate, premeditated and willful. If the death happened without premeditation, this element may not be satisfied. Second, the murder must be committed by lying in wait. Third, the person killed must either have been poisoned or must have been killed in the commission of -- or attempted commission of -- certain acts, such as first-degree arson, burglary, carjacking, escape from prison, kidnapping, rape, mayhem, robbery, first- or second-degree sexual offenses or sodomy.
If a person is found guilty of first-degree murder, it is a felony and he or she may face the following sentences. He or she may face incarceration for life with no possibility of parole or he or she may face incarceration for life. The sentence will be incarceration for life, unless a sentence of incarceration for life with no possibility of parole is in compliance with certain statutes.
While first-degree murder is undoubtedly a serious crime, because it is so serious, it is important that all elements of the crime are satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt before a conviction can be made. A cornerstone of our nation's criminal justice system is individuals in the United States are always considered innocent until proven guilty. Therefore, one should not jump to the conclusion that every killing is automatically first-degree murder.