Homicide Law in Florida
It is common to hear the words “murder” and “homicide” used interchangeably, but legally speaking, homicide is a much broader term. That is to say, not all homicide crimes are considered murder.
Under Florida law, homicides are regarded as either murder or manslaughter. The difference between manslaughter and murder is that manslaughter does not involve an intent to kill. For a homicide to be considered murder, the guilty party must have had an intent to kill, or else the murder must have taken place during the commission of certain types of serious crimes.
Florida recognizes three different murder offenses (murder in the first degree, murder in the second degree, and murder in the third degree). It also recognizes two manslaughter offenses (manslaughter and aggravated manslaughter).Murder Offenses
First-degree murder is defined as the unlawful killing of a human being that involves a premeditation to kill the victim, or when committed by a person engaged in – or attempting to engage in – certain crimes.
These crimes are drug trafficking, arson, sexual battery, robbery, burglary, kidnapping, escape, aggravated child abuse, aggravated abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult, aircraft piracy, unlawful use of a destructive device or bomb, carjacking, home-invasion robbery, aggravated stalking, murder of another human being, violently resisting an officer, aggravated fleeing or eluding with serious bodily injury or death, acts of terrorism, and distribution of cocaine, opiates or methadone.
Second-degree murder applies to the unlawful killing of a human being when caused by any act that is immediately dangerous to another, and with disregard to the victim, but does not include a premeditated intent.
It also applies to situations in which someone is involved in the perpetration of one of the crimes mentioned above in the definition of first-degree murder (with the exception of drug distribution) – if during the perpetration of the crime someone is killed by a person other than the perpetrator. In a scenario like this, the perpetrator of the crime will be considered guilty of second-degree murder, even though the perpetrator did not personally kill the victim.
Third-degree murder applies to the unlawful killing of a human being without premeditation, and by a person committing a crime that is not listed in the definition of first-degree murder.Manslaughter Offenses
Florida law regards manslaughter as the killing of a human being by act or negligence of another, without lawful justification, so long as the killing is not murder, and is not legally excused.
Aggravated manslaughter is a more serious charge than manslaughter. Aggravated manslaughter refers to manslaughter cases in which:
- A person causes the death of any elderly person or disabled adult;
- A person causes the death of any person under the age of 18; or
- A person causes the death of a firefighter, emergency medical technician, or paramedic..
Homicide charges can be punished with life imprisonment, or even the death penalty. If you or someone you know has been charged with homicide, it is essential that they receive the best possible legal representation. Fort Lauderdale criminal law attorney Mark S. Lowry knows how to fight homicide charges, and you can call or contact his office today.