Murder is the most serious crime of violence in the penal code of Florida. Any time the death of another person is the outcome of an altercation, dispute or action by one person, law enforcement authorities and the state prosecutors take time to investigate the crime, charge the party or parties responsible for the crime, try the defendants in criminal court, and punish any and all wrongdoers.
A Florida murder lawyer provides legal representation to individuals charged with murder in Florida. The prison sentences are long in these types of cases, so plea arrangements may often be pursued early on in the case prior to trial, in order to resolve the matter as quickly as possible.
Death Penalty in Florida
In early 2016, the Florida legislature passed a law reinstituting the death penalty, after an earlier statute was ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in Hurst v. Florida. All people sentenced to death in Florida, prior to the enactment of the revised statute got their sentences reduced to life sentences after the death penalty was ruled unconstitutional.
The death penalty in Florida is applied in cases where the victim dies and the crime is especially heinous. While the death sentence is the harshest of penalties, people convicted of murder in Florida face long prison terms, particularly if they had a prior criminal history. Life in prison is a severe punishment and should therefore be avoided, when possible, through the help of a Florida homicide lawyer.
Murder is Measured in Degrees in Florida
There are four degrees or categories of murder in Florida. They are the first, second, third and DUI manslaughter. Within the four categories there are sub-categories, which can be further explained by a murder attorney in Florida.
- DUI manslaughter is when an alcohol or drug impaired driver has a car accident and kills a passenger in any of the vehicles in the collision or the other driver.
- Third-degree murder involves negligent action or heat of passion murder that caused the death of another person.
- Second Degree murder involves imminently dangerous actions and evincing a depraved mind regardless of human life causes the death of another person.
- The first-degree murder category has two subcategories – felony murder and premeditated murder.
- Premeditated murder involves a planned murder. The person charged with premeditated murder is accused of planning to kill the person, prior to actually killing them.
- In felony murder cases on the other hand, the person accused of committing the crime intended to commit another felony, like a rape or robbery, and in the process killed someone.
Standard of Proof
In criminal proceedings, the state of Florida or prosecution has the burden of proof. That means that the state prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person accused of the crime committed it. The evidence is presented to a jury who determines the guilt or innocence of the accused person.
Florida assigns fault and charges all people with a crime, even if only one person actually caused the crime, under the principal theory. That means that any helper present – who aids, abets or assists another – in the commission of a crime that results in the death of the victim is charged with felony murder as if the helper himself had committed the crime.
How a Florida Murder Attorney Can Help
Stand your ground, and other defenses may be available to you, if a death results from an altercation or contact with another person. Contact a Florida Murder lawyer to schedule your confidential case evaluation.