Manslaughter By Vehicle
Under Maryland law manslaughter by vehicle or vessel is a felony with a maximum prison sentence of 10 years if the state proves that the driver or operator was acting in a grossly negligent manner. If the state is only able to prove that the defendant acted in criminally negligent manner then the offense is a misdemeanor with a 3 year maximum penalty. Unlike many other crimes, defendants who are convicted of either of these offenses are frequently sentenced to significant jail time, even if they are first time offenders. If the case is not handled properly each step of the way, the results can be devastating. The Herbst Firm understands that all of these cases are highly emotional and must be expertly defended.
Manslaughter cases are extremely unique from most other crimes, and often appear in the media because accidents involving death are priority number one for the local news outlets. In addition, the State's Attorney can receive a great deal of pressure from the family of the deceased victim and even the media to prosecute these cases even when the facts do not support the charge. In order to support a conviction for felony manslaughter by vehicle or vessel the state must prove the defendant drove in a grossly negligent manner, which is generally defined as acting with a reckless disregard for human life. The misdemeanor version of this offense still requires the state to prove more than just plain negligence or carelessness, but not to the level of reckless disregard. There is also the requirement of causation, so in some cases if the victim was also acting in a negligent manner this could be a defense to a conviction.
Manslaughter by vehicle cases typically involve allegations of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and also can involve high speed police chases, or racing. A defendant may be charged if drug or alcohol use contributed to the defendant's gross negligence but did not rise to the level of DUI or DWI with a B.A.C over .08. In Maryland there have been cases where a high speed police chase results in the death of either a police officer or a third party that is not involved in the chase. These cases are always highly controversial, and the police policies of high speed pursuit are often relevant in constructing a defense. Benjamin Herbst is available 24 hours a day to discuss this serious criminal charge, and is standing by to begin defending you or a loved one.