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Why intent matters in homicide cases

On Behalf of | Oct 10, 2023 | Criminal Defense

In homicide cases in Maryland, one of the most important things to consider is the role of intent. This defines what the alleged crime may be.

For example, 1st-degree murder in Maryland is the “intentional killing” of another person. Intent must be present. The act has to be carried out with the goal of taking the other person’s life.

If there is no intent, then it may change the charge, even if it doesn’t change the fact that one person lost their life. It could just be negligence.

For example, an intentional killing is when someone has premeditated the act and then carried it out, such as buying a handgun and driving to the other person’s house. But an unintentional killing could be something like texting and driving, drifting across the centerline and striking another vehicle. In both cases, another person lost their life, but the roles of intent and negligence define whether this would be a murder case or a negligent manslaughter case.

Are there exceptions? 

There’s one area that is something of an exception, although Maryland does just include this along with other types of first-degree murder. It is often referred to as felony murder, and it covers a case where someone passes away while a felony is happening, even if the killing was not intentional. An example of this could be if someone conducts a bank robbery and a witness has a heart attack and dies. The felony bank robbery caused the death and could still qualify as murder.

As you can see, these cases get very complex and the details are quite important. Those facing any sort of charges need to know what legal options they have.