Prosecutors have tried unsuccessfully to persuade state lawmakers to change the law and plan to try again in next year's General Assembly session.

In Baltimore County, Deputy State's Attorney John Cox said his office has been successful in prosecuting criminally negligent manslaughter cases two out of three times.

In the one case that didn't result in a conviction, Cox said, the driver was allegedly talking on the phone and traveling at 62 mph before smashing into the back of a car stopped on Interstate 83 because of an accident ahead. A 5-year-old boy in the back seat was killed, he said.

A judge found the driver not guilty of criminally negligent manslaughter and fined the driver $1,000 for negligent driving and speeding, Cox said.

"I truly believe I may have had much different chances of success if the law was more clearly set forward," Cox said.

Del. Luiz R.S. Simmons, a Democrat from Montgomery County, spent seven years trying to get the law passed. He said he would consider tweaks — but only if the state's attorneys can prove it's not working.

"I think that it's a fair law," said Simmons, a lawyer whose practice includes criminal defense. "It's an intermediate standard. It was designed to try to bring justice to the grieving families and children who have lost family members because of extreme acts of negligence."

More than 20 people traveled to Annapolis in 2011 to testify to lawmakers about the heartbreaking crashes that killed their loved ones and the drivers who only paid small fines for causing them.

In the emotionally charged hearing, lawmakers heard from a Reisterstown father whose teenage son was killed, the wife of a highway worker killed on the job near Frederick and an Owings Mills woman whose husband was struck and killed while riding his bike in northern Baltimore County.

"I really discovered that in many cases, the only fine, the only penalty, for taking a life is $500," Simmons said.

pwood@baltsun.com

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