Maryland’s High Court Throws Out Attempted Murder Conviction Against Driver Who Fled from Police

Police VehicleThere are many risks that a driver assumes when he or she decides to escape from pursuing police officers. One of these risks is the potential of committing more crimes by harming innocent bystanders. While one might face certain charges if one hits a bystander, the law does not allow the state to charge attempted murder when the proof in the case shows that the driver was motivated by a specific intent to outrun the police, rather than to kill the bystander. In one recent case originating from Dorchester County, that’s what happened and what led the Maryland Court of Appeals to throw out an attempted murder conviction.

The criminal trial and appeal in this case arose initially from a traffic violation in Dorchester County. A local detective witnessed a red Kia running a stop sign. The detective then engaged her lights and siren and began a chase. Kevon Spencer, the driver, accelerated to speeds of between 80 and 100 mph. Three officers tried to stop Spencer, but, in the course of the chase, Spencer hit a bicyclist, causing serious injuries.

The state tried Spencer on a variety of criminal charges related to the driver’s attempted getaway. One of the charges the state included was second-degree attempted murder. This charge related to the driver’s collision with the bicyclist. The trial court convicted Spencer on the murder charge, and, on appeal, the Court of Special Appeals upheld that ruling.

However, once the case reached the Court of Appeals, the driver achieved a more successful outcome. The problem with this prosecution was that the crime the state charged against Spencer – second-degree attempted murder – requires a specific intent to kill. Even if the accused person is proven to have a specific intent to “cause grievous bodily harm,” that is not sufficient to make out a second-degree attempted murder case. Based upon the facts in this case, it was clear that Spencer did not have the necessary type of specific intent required by the law to maintain a second-degree attempted murder charge.

The proof in Spencer’s case demonstrated something far from specific intent. The evidence showed that Spencer had a car full of passengers who were intoxicated and were screaming at Spencer to pull over. Spencer never indicated to any of his passengers that he wanted to run over or kill anyone while engaging in his attempted getaway. The method of chasing used by the police had, by the point Spencer encountered the bicyclist, left the driver with three options. Two of them had a high likelihood of ending in Spencer’s capture. The third option was the one Spencer chose. Based upon this strong evidence that Spencer was motivated by an intent to flee and escape capture, rather than an intent to kill, a jury could not possibly find beyond a reasonable doubt that Spencer hit the bicyclist with an intent to kill.

In criminal cases, many charges require the state to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed a certain act and that you had a certain state of mind when you did it. Without both the act and the mental state, you cannot be found guilty. These and other elements of the law exist to ensure justice. Another way to make sure that you or your loved one receives justice is to obtain skilled criminal counsel on your side. Maryland criminal defense attorney Anthony A. Fatemi has been defending the rights of the accused for many years and is ready to handle your case. Contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.

More blog posts:

Maryland Court Orders a New Trial in Criminal Case Due to Violation of Batson Ruling, Maryland Criminal Lawyer Blog, March 8, 2016

Maryland Court Upholds Admission of Evidence of Other Crimes in Attempted Second-Degree Murder Case, Maryland Criminal Lawyer Blog, May 26, 2015

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