First Degree Murder
A defendant can be charged with First Degree Murder if the person has either committed a Premeditated Murder, or a killed a person in the commission a Felony (Felony Murder). When a person commits a murder with “malice aforethought” that means that he/she pre-planned or schemed to kill another person, or in other words committed Premeditated Murder. In a prosecution for premediated murder the State must prove that the defendant intentionally killed the person and in killing the person had some thought, refection, or plan at any time prior to the killing.
Felony Murder occurs when a person kills another person while in the process of committing or attempting to commit a felony previously defined by statute. In this situation, it does not matter whether the person intended to kill anybody or not, just that in the commission of the felony a person was killed. For example, if a person commits an armed robbery and his accomplice kills a person in the commission of the robbery both individuals could be charged with felony first degree murder.
Capital First Degree Murder is one of the most serious charges a person may face. Since it is deemed a Capital Offense First Degree Murder comes with one of two harsh sentencing options – the death penalty or life without the possibility of parole. The death penalty can be waived by the State as a sentencing option and instead the defendant will be sentenced to life in prison without any possibility of parole once convicted. If the State does not choose to waive the imposition of the death penalty and a defendant is convicted of First Degree Murder, the court will then conduct a separate sentencing proceeding known as the Penalty Phase. This proceeding will determine whether the defendant should be sentenced to death or life imprisonment.
Second Degree Murder
When a person is killed without premeditation by an act imminently dangerous to another that displays a depraved mind showing no regard for human life, this is considered Murder with a Depraved Mind and is a Second Degree Murder offense. The main distinction between Premeditated First Degree Murder and Second Degree Murder with a Depraved Mind is that First Degree Murder requires a specific and premeditated intent to kill. In order to prove a depraved mind in the charge of second degree murder the state must prove that the murder occurred out of “ill-will, spite, hatred, or an evil intent”.
Second Degree Murder is classified as a felony of the first degree. If convicted of second degree murder the defendant will face a minimum sentence of 16.75 years according the Florida Sentencing Guidelines with the maximum sentence of life in prison. In addition to prison, the judge can also impose any combination of either, life in prison, life on probation, and up to $10,000 in fines if a defendant is convicted of Second Degree Murder. If the second degree murder was committed with a firearm, under Florida’s 10-20-Life law, the defendant must be sentenced to a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison up to life in prison.
Third Degree Murder
Third Degree Murder occurs when a person is unintentionally killed while a defendant is committing, or attempting to commit, a non-violent felony. Third degree murder is a second degree felony. If convicted of Third Degree Murder, a defendant may face a sentence of at least 10.5 years to 15 years in prison.
Manslaughter can occur in one of three ways – Manslaughter by Act, Manslaughter by Procurement, or Manslaughter by Culpable Negligence. Manslaughter by Act is considered Voluntary Manslaughter and involves committing an intentional act that was neither excusable nor justified, that results in the death of another person. Manslaughter by Procurement is also considered Voluntary Manslaughter and occurs when a defendant persuades, induces, or encourages another person to commit an act that results in the death of another person. Manslaughter by Culpable Negligence is considered Involuntary Manslaughter. This type of manslaughter occurs when an individual engages in “Culpably Negligent” conduct that results in the death of another person.
Culpable Negligence is defined as a course of conduct that shows a reckless disregard of human life or of the safety of the people exposed to its dangerous effects. It can also be such a depravity of care as to raise a presumption of a conscious indifference to consequences, or which shows wantonness or recklessness, or a grossly careless disregard for the safety and welfare of the public. Finally, culpable negligence can be displayed by an indifference to the rights of others that is equivalent to an intentional violation of those rights.
Manslaughter is a Felony of the Second Degree. If convicted of Manslaughter, the defendant may face a sentence of over 9 years minimum in prison up to 15 years in prison according to the Florida Sentencing Guidelines. Although it is not a specific element of manslaughter, if the jury determines a weapon or firearm was used in the commission of the manslaughter, the crime will be reclassified from a felony of the second degree to a felony of the first degree.
Aggravated Manslaughter of a Child
Unlike simple manslaughter, Aggravated Manslaughter of a Child can only be committed by a child’s caregiver. A caregiver is defined as a parent, adult household member, or other person that is responsible for a child’s welfare. If the death of a child, or a person under the age of 18, was caused by the defendant’s culpable negligence, the defendant was a caregiver to the child, and the defendant’s culpable negligence constituted Neglect of a Child, the defendant will be found guilty of Aggravated Manslaughter of a Child.
Culpable negligence can be classified in a few different ways. It can be determined through a course of conduct that shows a reckless disregard of human life or of the safety of the people exposed to its dangerous effects. It can also be such a depravity of care as to raise a presumption of a conscious indifference to consequences, or which shows wantonness or recklessness, or a grossly careless disregard for the safety and welfare of the public. Finally, culpable negligence can be displayed by an indifference to the rights of others that is equivalent to an intentional violation of those rights.
Neglect of a child occurs when a caregiver fails to provide a child with the supervision, care, and services necessary to maintain the child’s physical and mental health in a way that a prudent person would consider crucial for the well-being of the child. Aggravated Manslaughter of a child could also be proven if the defendant knew that the child was being abused by another person and failed to protect that child from the abuser. If the child died from the abuse or and the death or serious bodily injury of the child was foreseeable a caregiver could be convicted and charged with aggravated manslaughter even though they did not actually kill the child.
The crime of Aggravated Manslaughter of a Child is a First Degree Felony punishable by a minimum sentence of 16.75 years to 30 years in prison.
Defense to Murder and Manslaughter
If you have been accused of murder or manslaughter it is important that you hire an attorney who has the experience to raise, your defense. For instance; if another person is killed by you while you are resisting an attempt by them to kill you or commit a felony against you, this is considered justifiable homicide and is lawful. Self-defense is the justified use of deadly force and is also a defense to the crime of First Degree Murder.
There are many defenses that a person may have available to them in a murder case. These defense could be that:
• The killing is committed in self defense
• The defendant is immune from prosecution under Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law
• The defendant did not cause the death of the person
• The murder was not “premeditated” (First Degree Murder)
• The Defendant did not kill with “ill-will, spite, hatred, or evil intent” (Second Degree Murder)
• The death was not foreseeable and the defendant did not cause the death (Manslaughter)
• The Killing was excusable, and therefore lawful and not subject to punishment. This may occur: When the killing is committed by accident and misfortune in doing any lawful act by lawful means with usual ordinary caution and without any unlawful intent; or when the killing occurs by accident and misfortune in the heat of passion, upon any sudden and sufficient provocation; or when the killing is committed by accident and misfortune resulting from a sudden combat, if a dangerous weapon is not used and the killing is not done in a cruel or unusual way.