There is no criminal charge more severe than murder in Florida. The mention of a murder suspect could relay a message to the majority as guilty. Penalties and possible punishments that come with a conviction for murder crime are severe.
The criminal defense lawyers at Arnold Law have many years of experience with complex cases of murder.
Our team has handled many murder investigations and case representations over the years and know how hard the prosecution works to convict offenders.
We could help unearth critical omissions the prosecutors make to make you appear guilty of murder.
Contact our office today if you or your loved one is facing murder charges. We will listen to your story and advise on the way forward.
The Legal Definition of Murder Under Florida Law
Florida Statute 782.04 refers to murder as the ending of someone else's life in an unlawful manner. The crime could involve a deliberate plan to kill someone or when you get involved in other offenses that could result in another person’s death.
These other criminal offenses that could cause result in a murder crime include:
- Aggravated child abuse
- Aggravated stalking
- Aircraft piracy
- Human trafficking
- Illegitimate discharge of explosives
- Sexual battery
Florida law also states that the crime of murder could happen when you illegitimately distribute illicit substances, and they cause death to the abusers. For example, methadone, cocaine, opium, alfentanil, fentanyl, and any other controlled substance.
There are different murder degrees in Florida. Usually, these degrees primarily hang on the circumstances in which the crime occurred.
Homicide vs. Murder vs. Manslaughter
Often, the majority use the words murder and murder interchangeably to mean the same thing. But according to Florida law, these words have different meanings.
While homicide and murder involve killing someone else, at times, the court may not consider homicide as a crime. For instance, when a law enforcer shoots dead a robber while on patrol, they commit homicide and not murder.
Murder and manslaughter are other words that people often confuse. Here, the significant difference is the intent. Florida law splits the murder crime into different degrees, namely first degree, second degree, and third-degree murders.
Manslaughter is unlawfully ending someone else's life, but no malice aforethought is involved. Here, the court doesn't require that you had willful intent to cause severe injuries, kill, or showed reckless disregard for human life. Florida law categorizes manslaughter under second-degree felony, and the juror could consider it as a first-degree felony if the offense involved aggravating circumstances.
If aggravating conditions are evident, the court could enhance manslaughter to aggravated manslaughter, which often includes the murder of a disabled person, a child, or an aging person.
First-Degree Murder in Florida Law
Florida statute 782.04(1)(a) states that first-degree murder occurs when your action of killing a human being is deliberate and willful. Under Florida Law, there exist three ways the prosecution could charge you for a first-degree murder offense.
First Degree Premeditated Murder
Florida Statute section 782.04(1)(a)(1) states that premeditated murder is a pre-planned criminal offense. The murder crime occurs when you kill a human being after planning and strategizing for the same. Your decision to kill is registered in the mind way before you commit the actual crime.
Before the juror could convict you for first-degree murder, the prosecution must provide proof beyond a reasonable doubt that you had schemed or planned to commit the crime – kill someone else.
As proof of premeditation, the prosecution is needed to detail the steps the defendant took as preparations for their murder crime.
First Degree Felony Murder
According to Florida Statute section 782.04(1)(a)(2), you commit felony murder if you cause the death of someone else while committing other felonies, even though you had not pre-planned intent to kill.
Florida law includes felony offenses that could result in a possible murder, and they are like carjacking, burglary, escape, robbery, arson, aggravated child abuse, terrorism, sexual battery, and many more.
The prosecution must prove in court that the defendant committed or had the intent to commit a felony crime. The court could also press charges for felony murder even if you didn't carry out the killing by yourself.
Distribution of Illicit Drugs and Controlled Substances
Under a first-degree murder statute, you could subject yourself to murder crime if someone else dies after you offered them illicit or controlled substances.
Substances and drugs that Florida law considers illicit or controlled are opium, cocaine, methadone, fentanyl, and many more described under Florida Statute 893.03.
The prosecution must prove that you offered the dead illicit substances or controlled ones, as Florida law describes.
Also known as capital or aggravated homicide in Florida, capital murder is a first-degree murder but under particular circumstances. Florida law considers this crime as extreme, and very harsh penalties are imposed if convicted.
Murder offenses that fall under the capital murder category in Florida are:
- The killing of security personnel, paramedic, firefighter, or law enforcer
- The murdering of a juror, judge, prosecutor, or elected official
- Killing more than one person
- Acts of terrorism
- Murdering a witness of an offense
- Murdering a child
- The killing of someone else when committing/attempting to commit a felony crime or a violent crime like sexual assault, kidnapping, burglary, and many others
Second-Degree Murder in Florida Law
Florida Statute sections 782.04(2) and 782.04(4) suggest that second-degree murder occurs when you kill someone else without premeditation, with a depraved mind, or commits accomplice felony murder.
You could kill another person in the heat of passion or act in a manner that shows careless disregard for human life. For example, killing your spouse immediately, you learn that they cheated on you.
Murder with a Depraved Mind
The type of killing that occurs without any prior plans. For example, through an act potentially life-threatening to someone else and exhibiting a depraved mind or disregard for human life.
Accomplice Felony Murder
You are guilty of accomplice felony crime as a second-degree murder if you are in the company of a person who kills someone else when committing or attempting to commit another felony crime. You face charges for accomplice felony murder even though your partner had zero intent to kill a human.
Examples of these statutorily enumerated felonies include arson, burglary, escape, robbery, aggravated child abuse, sexual battery, and many others.
Attempted Second Degree Murder
You could act with a depraved mind wanting to kill someone else but fail. Even though our victim didn't die, the court charges you with attempted murder under a second degree.
Here, the prosecution is not required to prove that you had premeditated intent to kill but provide proof that you had the motive grounded on your actions.
Under Florida law, attempted second-degree murder entails elements like:
- You had the intention to murder another human being
- You tried to commit the murder crime even if unsuccessful
Proving Second Degree Murder in Florida
Under Florida law, for a court to convict an offender, the prosecution must prove some elements of the crime. In the case of second-degree murder, the prosecution must prove the following:
- The victim is dead
- Criminal acts of the offender resulted in the death of the victim
- The defendant showed a depraved mind and disregard for human life through actions considered potentially life-threatening.
Florida law does not need proof that the defendant had a willful course, but they acted with hostility toward the deceased. The prosecution could also prove that the dead and the offender had a relationship.
Third Degree Murder in Florida Law
Third-degree murder is the least known murder charge. But what makes up a third-degree murder?
Under Florida law - FS 782.04(4), a third-degree murder occurs when you kill someone else without intent or when attempting to commit/ committing a non-violent felony.
However, non-violent felony does not constitute death, which involves the distribution of controlled substances.
For the court to impose any punishment for your third-degree murder crime, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- Death of the victim occurred
- Your crime commission was the primary cause of the deceased’s death
- The deceased died as a result of your attempt to commit a crime
- You were an accomplice or were escaping the crime scene when the victim died
- You killed the deceased
- Another person, who you and they were principals in crime commission, killed the victim
Sentencing and Punishment for Murder Crime in Florida
A conviction for murder charges hangs on the degree of murder. The punishment imposed for first-degree murder is different from that which is imposed on second or third-degree murder.
Possible Penalties for First Degree Murder
Florida law imposes severe penalties for first-degree murder crimes. In Florida, this offense is considered a capital felony. And, persons convicted of a capital felony in Florida receive death penalties.
Also, if the court decides not to sentence the offender to a death penalty, then life imprisonment takes effect. Life imprisonment for first-degree murder charges entails no possible parole.
Prosecutorial Waiver of the Death Punishment
Florida State has jurisdiction to revoke the death punishment and impose life imprisonment.
If the state waives the death penalty, the convict serves life in prison without parole.
Penalty Phase Proceedings
At times the state allows the death penalty to go through for first-degree murder convicts. The court conducts a discrete proceeding termed as the Penalty Phase to decide if the offender should serve a life sentence or the death penalty.
Punishment for Second Degree Murder
Under Florida law, second-degree murder crime is considered a first-degree felony. Usually, possible sentences for the first-degree felony in Florida is a fine, not more than $10,000, life on probation, or life imprisonment.
Florida Criminal Punishment Code ranks second-degree murder under Level 10 offense severity. In Florida, murder convicts should receive a penalty of not less than 16 years and nine months in prison. The juror also has the jurisdiction to sentence the offender up to life in prison.
The different second-degree murder sentences include:
- Serving jail time of not less than 30 years in prison or a fine that does not exceed $10,000 for a first-degree felony
- Punishment by death for a first-degree capital felony. You commit a first-degree felony for crimes like burglary, robbery, sexual battery, or arson. If someone else dies due to your crime commission, you get charged with first-degree murder
- Life imprisonment for a first-degree felony when your accomplice kills someone else in the event of a felony crime commission
- Serving jail time of not more than 15 years for a second-degree crime commission when you cause severe harm to some else while attempting to kill them. Here, the court could also charge you with attempted second-degree murder
10-20- Life Imprisonment Law
According to 10-20-Life mandatory imprisonment sentence, if you use a gun to kill someone else, you must serve jail time of a period not less than 25 years.
Possible Punishment for Third Degree Murder Crimes in Florida
The Criminal Punishment Code in Florida categorizes third-degree murder under a second-degree felony. Also, this murder charge is placed under the Level 8 offense severity rank.
Florida law requires the jurors to sentence guilty offenders to prison for a period not lower than ten years. The juror also has the jurisdiction to impose other penalties like:
- A fine that does not exceed $10,000
- Jail time that does not exceed 15 years
- Probation of not less than 15 years
Legal Defenses to Murder Charges
Murder cases are among the most complicated lawsuits lawyers in Florida represent in court. You want to get concerned regarding what possible conviction the court could impose as well as the abilities of the criminal defense attorney who argues your court proceedings.
Your legal defense approach in the murder charges hangs on the circumstances of the case. Your defense could take even years of consultations, researching, investigation, and limitation.
An experienced defense lawyer could argue that you lacked premeditation for a first-degree murder charge, you lacked intent to commit a second-degree felony, try to have penalties reduced, or have charges against you dismissed.
Defenses for murder charges in Florida may appear an uphill. Why? Because the police make arrests based on circumstantial evidence, non-credible evidence, or wrong witness identifications.
But with proper representation, you could gain back your freedom.
Possible Legal Defenses to First Degree Murder in Florida
There exist many legal defenses to this crime in Florida. But every case is unique. Be sure to discuss with a competent attorney to build robust defenses against the plaintiff. Possible defenses to this murder crime include:
- Means that you were not present at the time the murder happened; hence, you never killed someone else
- You were not the one who made a You could be present when another person gets killed but not you who made the killing
- Stand your ground. Also referred to as self-defense means that the deceased tried to kill you or cause serious harm to you, and you defended yourself. Your lawyer could argue that you could have died if it was not for your defense
- The murder was never pre-planned. You could say that you did not premeditate on killing the victim. the court could lower your charges to second-degree murder
- The killing was accidental. Your homicide was not intended and occurred by accident. For example, showing off a firearm to your friend and pulling the trigger without knowing
- The law enforcers framed you. You have seen it in the news or read it in the daily papers – the police planting evidence to frame innocent persons for murder.
There are many more legal defenses to first-degree murder, you and your attorney could use. It is wise if you consulted the lawyer and learn how the system works in Florida.
Potential Legal Defenses to Second Degree Murder
Pretrial and trial defenses often occur in Florida second degree murder cases, just like all other criminal offenses. But there are precise defenses meant for different situations. For second-degree murder possible legal defenses include:
Killing someone else is defensible under Florida law. But there are specific circumstances that the law could excuse you for murder, and they are:
- The killing was accidental. Perhaps your killing occurred while performing lawful acts and without any deliberate or abrupt intent
- Your killing happened in the heat of passion. Many killings that happen in the heat of passion are considered as misfortune or accidents. These killings entail no premeditated intent but abrupt provocation
- Your killing occurred accidentally when you and the deceased were in a fight. But Florida law requires that the murder involved no lethal weapons for this defense to apply. Also, you could use this defense if you did not kill someone else in a ruthless manner
Justifiable Murder/ Homicide
The law considers murder lawful and justifiable when you murdered to prevent the victim from killing you of performing an act
Self-defense occurs when you use more than reasonable force to prevent someone else from causing harm to you.
Using deadly force to defend yourself against possible harm another person wanted to cause to you, and killing them could act as a legal defense in Florida.
What Are the Legal Defenses to Third Degree Murder?
Like many criminal cases, a third-degree murder case has possible legal defenses, which a competent lawyer can use to have your charges reduced or dismissed.
But there are particular legal defenses for third-degree murder crimes.
Yes! The law excuses offenders charged with third-degree murder in certain conditions. You qualify to use this defense in court if:
- You killed someone else by accident when doing legal deeds and without an intent to kill
- You murdered someone else accidentally in the heat of passion after a sudden provocation.
- The murder occurred accidentally after an abrupt conflict but where no lethal weapons were involved, and no prior cases of cruelty recorded
Many people confuse this legal defense with self-defense. There are odds that the court could view your murder act as justifiable. But you must show the juror that the victim tried to kill you or cause harm to you.
It is best if you hired an excellent criminal defense attorney if you acted to defend yourself from the victim.
There exist several criminal offenses that closely relate to Florida’s murder law. while some involve unlawful killing, others are felonies that could result in felony murder.
Under Florida law, voluntary manslaughter is considered as the ‘heat of passion’ offense. The offense happens when:
- You get provoked. The law requires that circumstances involved could also provoke another person if they were in your shoes
- The provocation aroused heat of passion; hence, making you commit murder
The court can only reduce your murder charges if you prove that you lacked enough time to cool off as a result of provocation.
Here, the court cannot consider your crime as first- or second-degree murder since it is a result of human weakness. The emotional aspect is what lessens the moral culpability.
Yet another crime related to murder, involuntary manslaughter, occurs when you accidentally kill someone else due to reckless conduct or wanton. The killing could also happen when committing an offense other than a felony. But extreme levels of recklessness could result in second-degree murder.
In Florida, DUI manslaughter occurs when you drive drunk and cause the death of someone else. You could cause death directly or indirectly.
DUI manslaughter is a lesser serious murder crime in Florida, but the penalties are harsh. If convicted, you could serve in prison for a period not exceeding 15 years.
Regardless of the seriousness of your murder charges, you need to work with a criminal defense attorney who has a positive track record.
Find a Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer Near Me
Murder falls under the most severe criminal offenses you or your loved one could get charged with and leaves you at the risk of receiving the most severe punishment Florida law allows.
At Arnold Law, our criminal defense lawyers understand that a murder suspect faces the harshest punishment like death penalty or life imprisonment.
Hurry and let us fight for your freedom or that of your loved one. You do not want to leave your family in sorrow for the rest of their lives. You don’t want to jeopardize your reputation or career life. To safeguard your freedom and legal rights, talk to a criminal defense attorney today at 904-264-3627.