What Are the Classes of Felonies in Maryland?

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Felonies are the most serious offenses on the statute books in Maryland. While the state has abolished the death penalty, you can still serve life sentences in prison without parole. We are sometimes asked ‘what are the classes of felonies in Maryland?’

Many states classify their felonies by letters or numbers. States including North Carolina and New York have Class A/level 1 felonies which are the most serious crime. In North Carolina, the classification runs from A to G. However, Maryland classifies its felonies based on the alleged offense rather than giving them a letter or a number.

Felonies in Maryland range from murder in the first degree—the most serious felony crime anyone can be charged with —to kidnapping, aggravated assault, rape, robbery, and distributing a controlled dangerous substance.

While Maryland does not recognize classes of felonies, there are clear sentencing guidelines depending on the offense you find yourself charged with. Baltimore criminal defense attorney Randolph Rice outlines felonies in Maryland.

How Felony Murder is Classified in Maryland

Maryland recognizes murder in the first degree and murder in the second degree. Under Section 20-201, murder in the first degree is committed if it is any of the following:

  • A premeditated, deliberate, and willful killing
  • Committed by a person lying in wait
  • Committed by poison
  • Committed during an attempt to commit:
    • First-degree arson
    • Burglary in the first, second, or third degree
    • Carjacking or attempted carjacking
    • During an escape from a Maryland correctional facility or a local correctional facility
    • Rape
    • Kidnapping
    • Mayhem
    • Robbery
    • A sexual offense in the first or second degree

First Degree Murder

People convicted of first-degree murder in Maryland face either life in prison with the possibility of parole or life in prison without the possibility of parole. The death penalty was abolished in Maryland in 2013.

Second Degree Murder

It’s a felony in Maryland to commit murder, even when it was not willful, premeditated or deliberate. The prosecution must show intent to secure a murder conviction. If there is no intent, the killing is charged as manslaughter.

Second degree murder carries a lighter sentence than first degree murder in Maryland. A conviction carries a prison sentence of up to 30 years. A first degree murder charge can be reduced to a second degree charge in some cases. Your Maryland murder defense lawyer can fight for a reduced sentence.

Classifications and Penalties of Felony Robbery in Maryland

One of the classes of felonies in Maryland is robbery. The crime is a theft charge that involves violence or the use of force. A robbery or an attempted robbery carries a sentence of up to 15 years behind bars.

Armed Robbery

Armed robbery is defined under Maryland Criminal Code as robbery with a dangerous weapon such as a gun, a knife or any implement that can cause death or serious bodily injury. Even if you do not have a weapon but you pass a note saying you do during a robbery, you can be charged with armed robbery. The maximum sentence for armed robbery is 20 years in prison. Additional charges will be filed for the use of a handgun during a violent crime. Armed robbery carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years.

Baltimore robbery defense lawyer Randolph Rice can help to defend you from being convicted of these charges.


Carjacking entails the forceful hijacking of a vehicle from the owner or another driver through violence, force or intimidation. The penalty for a carjacking robbery is up to 30 years in prison.

How Felony Assault is Classified in Maryland

First-Degree Assault

First-degree assault or assault is detailed under Maryland Criminal Code, Section 3-202. You face a felony you attack someone with a firearm, shotgun, rifle, short-barreled shotgun or short-barreled rifle or you intentionally cause serious physical harm to another person.

Physical harm entails causing an injury that creates a substantial risk of death, permanent or prolonged disfigurement, or loss of function or impairment of function in a bodily organ or an appendage. Defendants charged with first-degree assault face up to 25 years imprisonment and/or up to $5,000 in fines.

Sexual Assault and Rape

Rape has two degrees in Maryland. First degree rape is engaging in sexual intercourse with another person without his or her permission by the use of force, weapons, strangling, kidnapping or another serious injury. First degree rape carries a maximum sentence of life imprisonment.

Second degree rape is intercourse with another person without their permission by force or threat or with a mentally incapacitated person, a drunk person or where the victim is under 14 and the perpetrator is at least four years older. Second degree rape generally carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison or life if the victim is under 13 and the perpetrator is over 18.

Maryland has four degrees of sexual offenses. A first degree sexual offense in Maryland involves a sexual act while displaying a weapon, suffocating or physically hurting a victim, or threatening a victim with death, serious physical injury or disfigurement. It carries a medium sentence of life imprisonment.

A fourth degree sexual offense is generally a misdemeanor carrying no more than a year in prison and/or a $1,000 fine.

Penalties for Fraud in MD

White-collar offenses may be charged as felonies in Maryland. For instance, credit card counterfeiting in the state is a felony subject to up to 15 years in prison and a fine up to $1,000.

What Are the Penalties for Drug Felonies in Maryland?

Some drug crimes in Maryland are misdemeanors and others are felonies.

Drug felonies include selling, manufacturing, or distributing certain drugs.

Each of these crimes can land you in prison for up to 40 years. Major dealers who possess enough narcotics for police to believe that they are distributing them, receive a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in Maryland. Fines for drug offenses can reach $100,000.

Talk to a Baltimore Criminal Defense Lawyer About Your Felony Charges in Maryland

At the Law Offices of Randolph Rice, our attorney has represented defendants charged with felonies for over 10 years. Before setting up his own practice in Baltimore, Randolph Rice was a former assistant state attorney. Felonies are extremely serious and can drastically impact your future.

An experienced criminal defense lawyer may be able to get you acquitted of a felony or reduce a serious felony charge to a misdemeanor. We can represent you at every stage of the process from your bail hearing to your trial and a possible appeal hearing. Please contact us for a free consultation as soon as possible.


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