Fort Lauderdale Homicide Attorney
Homicide is the killing of one human being by another. Under most circumstances, homicide is criminal. “Homicide” itself is not a crime, but rather a category of crimes; in Florida, these crimes arising out of homicide are governed by Florida Statutes Chapter 782, which lays out the different homicide crimes, as well as some defenses. These are among the most serious crimes that a person can be charged with.
If you’re being investigated or have been charged with a homicide crime in the greater Ft. Lauderdale area, you still have rights that law enforcement and the criminal justice system must respect. Fort Lauderdale homicide attorney, Mark S. Lowry, can help you understand the case against you and ensure that your rights are protected.
Types of Homicide Crimes
The most well known homicide crimes are manslaughter and murder, each of which is further broken down into different levels of seriousness. The key distinction between murder and manslaughter is the mental state of the person that committed the crime.
There are three degrees of murder in Florida. First-degree murder is a homicide that was either intentional (intended to kill) and premeditated or committed in the commission of, or attempt to commit, one of 17 enumerated felonies including arson, resisting an officer with violence, and aggravated child abuse. Murder that is committed during the commission of a felony is referred to as felony murder. Florida does recognize the death penalty in first degree murder cases, though the prosecutor is likely to seek it only in the most serious of cases.
Second degree murder is a homicide that was not intentional or premeditated but committed by a person engaged in reckless, imminently dangerous conduct “evincing a depraved mind regardless of human life” or that was committed by another individual during commission or attempted commission of one of the enumerated felony murder felonies. This means that a person that didn’t actually commit the homicide can be charged with murder if they committed (or attempted to commit) a felony with another person and that other person committed the homicide. It’s a law that seeks to deter the commission of inherently dangerous felonies but that can have harsh results.
Third-degree murder, the least serious murder charge, is another type of felony murder that occurs when a homicide takes place during the commission of a less serious felony.
Manslaughter is homicide by “act, procurement, or culpable negligence” that is not justified. Unlike murder, manslaughter in Florida is not itself broken down into degrees by statute, but may be a first or second degree felony depending on the surrounding circumstances and/or individuals involved. For example, manslaughter of an elderly person or disabled person is a first degree felony.
Defenses to Homicide
There are defenses to homicide crimes, and given the seriousness of this category of crimes, it is important to assert any viable defense. The most fundamental defense in a homicide case, whether a murder or a manslaughter charge, is to attack the prosecutor’s case and show that they cannot prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. Other possible defenses include self-defense, defense of another, or attempted prevention of a forcible felony.
An offshoot of self-defense is Florida’s “Stand Your Ground Law,” a law that many Ft. Lauderdale clients ask about. That law provides that a person is justified in the use of deadly force and has no duty to retreat if the person reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself, or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.
Of course, all defenses are nuanced and not available in all cases. Fort Lauderdale homicide attorney Mark S. Lowry can help you determine what defenses to homicide may be available in your case.