While murder and homicide are often used interchangeably, they are actually different concepts that call for a bit of explanation and clarification. A murder charge is a serious matter that could lead to a punishment of life in prison or even the death penalty. In Florida, homicide is divided into murder in the first, second and third degree (with first-degree murder being the most serious charge), as well as voluntary and involuntary manslaughter. The differences between these charges can be slight, but important, particularly in your legal defense. If you have been charged with such a crime, speak to our Sarasota criminal defense attorneys as soon as possible to discuss your legal rights and options.
First-Degree Murder in Florida
A first-degree murder occurs when someone commits a premeditated murder or a felony murder. A premeditated murder is when someone plans in advance to kill another person and intentionally carries out that plan up to and through completion. Felony murder is when an individual kills another during the commission of a felony crime (think arson, burglary, kidnapping, robbery, trafficking controlled substances, etc.), regardless of that person’s intent. Punishments for first-degree murder are either life in prison without the possibility of parole or death.
Second-degree murder is when an individual with a depraved (or evil) mind murders another person or when a person is an accomplice to a felony murder. Murder with a depraved mind is when a person kills someone by a dangerous act that shows no regard for human life. The difference between this charge and first-degree murder is the person’s intent to kill a particular person. Being an accomplice to a felony murder involves assisting in some way anyone who kills another during the commission of a felony. Penalties for this crime include up to life in prison, life on probation, and a hefty financial fine.
Third-degree murder involves someone killing someone else in the commission of a non-violent felony regardless of that person’s intent. Penalties for third-degree murder include up to 15 years in prison, 15 years of probation and a stiff fine.
Manslaughter is less serious than murder, but still a serious charge. The difference between murder and manslaughter is malice (i.e., evil or hatred). Manslaughter is committed without “malice aforethought,” which is a legal way of saying there was no intent to harm or kill the other person. In Florida, manslaughter is voluntary or involuntary.
Voluntary manslaughter is when a person commits an intentional act that is neither justified nor excusable, that results in the death of another. Involuntary manslaughter is where someone engages in negligent or reckless conduct that results in the death of another person. Penalties for manslaughter are similar to the penalties for murder in the third degree.
Reach Out to Our Sarasota Criminal Defense Attorneys for Help Today
There are a number of defenses that can be raised in homicide cases, including excusable homicide, justified homicide, and self-defense. Knowing which will be best in a specific case will depend on the facts and circumstances surrounding the matter.
If you are charged with murder or manslaughter in Florida, it is important you speak with one of our Sarasota criminal defense attorneys as soon as possible to help you prepare the best defense for your case. Contact us today to see how we can help you.