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What is Maryland's Fetal Homicide Law?

It may come as a surprise to learn that Maryland has a law on the books regarding fetal homicide, meaning that an unborn child can be a murder victim. While the law has been on the books since 2005, the topic is now one of discussion after a recent segment on ABC2 Baltimore’s nightly news.

Md. Criminal Law Code Ann. § 2-103

The fetus homicide law is part of the Maryland Criminal Code Ann. § 2-103. It establishes that “a prosecution may be instituted for murder or manslaughter of a viable fetus.” Anyone prosecuted under this statute must have:

  • Intended to cause the death of the viable fetus;
  • Intended to cause serious physical injury to the viable fetus; or
  • Wantonly or recklessly disregarded the likelihood that the person’s action would cause the death of or serious injury to the viable fetus.

For those who are concerned about how this applies to right to choose, additional terms of the statute include:

  • Nothing in this section applies to or infringes on a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy as stated in § 20-209 of the Maryland Health – General Article.
  • Nothing in this section subjects a physician or other licensed medical professional to liability for fetal death that occurs during the course of administering lawful medical care.
  • Nothing in this section applies to an act or failure to act of a pregnant woman with regard to her own fetus.
  • Nothing in this section shall be construed to confer personhood or any rights on the fetus.

What Defines a Viable Fetus

In order to be charged with fetal homicide, the fetus needs to be considered a viable fetus, which is one that can live without the mother. A viable fetus is defined in Maryland Health-General Code Ann. § 20-209. It declares that in order to be declared a viable fetus, there is likelihood of the fetus’s sustained survival outside the womb.

As for abortion, it confirms the state may not interfere with a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy before the fetus is viable. She can terminate the pregnancy at any given time during the pregnancy if:

  • The termination is necessary to protect the life or health of the woman; or
  • The fetus is affected by genetic defect or serious deformity or abnormality.

It also protects the physician in some cases by providing that the doctor is not liable for civil damages or subject to criminal prosecution for a decision to perform an abortion made in good faith and in the physician’s best medical judgment in accordance with the accepted standards of medical practice.

One of the first cases prosecuted under this law involved a man who shot and killed his girlfriend as well as the pair’s child she was carrying. The prosecution put the medical examiner on the stand to confirm weight, length, and size of the fetus, as well as an OBGyn who talked about whether the fetus could have survived outside the womb.

Highly Debated Law

With the constant debate between pro-life and pro-choice supporters, the idea of a law that allows a fetus to be declared a murder victim makes some people uncomfortable. Pro-life supporters have pushed for legislation to treat the fetus as a separate entity, especially when the laws are designed to only protect the mother. Others fear it could become a “slippery slope” that could ultimately jeopardize a woman’s right-to-choose if a fetus is deemed its own person inside the womb.

Why Call a Civil Attorney

If you or someone in your family has experienced a tragedy that falls under the fetal homicide statute, you should consider discussing your situation with an experienced Maryland personal injury attorney. Depending on the circumstances surrounding this painful and horrific experience, there may be a cause of action for a civil claim in some instances. While it will not help ease the pain of losing an unborn child, recouping medical costs can help ease the financial burden. Contact the Law Office of Robert R. Castro at 301-804-2312 for a free consultation.

For Castro Law Group:

How Your Plea in a Traffic Offense can Affect Your Civil Case

It is not uncommon to be issued tickets after a traffic incident, even if you feel you were not at fault. Not every accident victim hires an attorney immediately, which means the matter with the traffic court is often settled prior to the time the case proceeds into litigation. It is important to note that how you choose to resolve the traffic court matter can impact your civil case down the line.

In most Maryland accident cases, the issuance of a ticket relates to a minor, or non-incarcerable offense. As such, the disposition of your traffic citation does not become admissible in a subsequent civil injury case. However, because minor traffic violations are still considered criminal offenses, how you choose to resolve the matter may influence the potential for it to have some influence on your civil action.

Paying the Ticket Before Trial

Mailing a check to pay for your traffic ticket is not an automatic admission of guilt, despite the ticket noting it in the fine print. It is recognized that many people pay traffic tickets merely as a matter of convenience. Maybe you live in a different jurisdiction, or cannot take time off from work to fight the ticket in court. What is important to note is that paying your ticket is not an automatic admission of guilt and should have no bearing on your civil case in most cases.

Go to Trial and Found Guilty

Interestingly enough, going to trial and being found guilty in a traffic court case does not mean that you are automatically at a disadvantage during your civil trial in Maryland. Some people assume they have no civil case because they fought the traffic offense and were found guilty. Fortunately, the traffic court decision is not admissible in a civil matter that is based on the same set of facts. However, it is important to point out that the defense attorney may try to get any admissions or testimony made during the case admitted into evidence during the civil case.

The standard of proof in traffic court is higher than in a civil case, but the stakes are much lower. Most people will not hire an attorney to represent them for a traffic ticket that may only cost $100, whereas the will if they are being sued in civil court for $100,000. Without the right to a jury trial in most traffic court cases, holding the finding against you in a high-dollar civil matter would be unfair.

Pleading Guilty Versus Nolo Contendere (No Contest)

Here is where the line gets blurred and you may have a problem during a civil trial. If you choose to go to court and plead guilty, it is memorialized in the court record, which basically means you have admitted to everything to which you are charged with and you are willing to face whatever penalty the court wishes to impose. People sometimes plead guilty to just streamline the matter and save themselves time and money.

However, there is another option that may not hinder your civil matter down the line. That would be to enter a plea of nolo contendere, also called no contest. The court will treat it the same way as a guilty plea, but you may not get stuck with the points on your record.

Charles County Personal Injury Attorney

If you have been in a motor vehicle accident you believe to be the fault of another driver, please contact the Law Office of Robert R. Castro today for a free consultation at 301-804-2312.

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