One of the worst charges a person can face is murder. It is the only crime in Florida for which the death penalty can be used. If you've been arrested or charged with killing someone in Florida, the first thing you need to know is what kind of murder charges you could face there. We can say that there are three "degrees" of murder, and the punishments can range from 15 years in prison to the death penalty.
First-Degree Murder Charges in Florida
In Florida, first-degree murder is the most serious type of murder charge you can get. A prosecutor might call a murder "first degree" for one of these three reasons:
The murder was planned ahead of time. You thought about what you were going to do and planned it out before you did it.
You or a partner killed someone while you were trying to commit a qualifying crime. Carjacking, burglary, starting a fire, and hurting a child are all examples of crimes that qualify.
If you sell a controlled substance and someone dies because of it, you can also be charged with first-degree murder.
In Florida, people who are found guilty of first-degree murder can get either the death penalty or life in prison without the chance of parole.
Two things make prosecutors charge second-degree murder.
A person died because of an act that was "imminently dangerous to another" and "showed a depraved mind." Basically, you did something that you knew was inherently dangerous and could kill someone. But, unlike first-degree murder, you didn't plan what you did ahead of time.
Someone was killed during the commission of a qualifying crime, but not by you or anyone else involved in the crime. Again, there are a number of crimes that could qualify, such as breaking into someone's home, kidnapping, or sexual battery.
In Florida, second-degree murder charges are a first-degree crime. Our criminal lawyer in Arroyo Law Firm says that the minimum sentence is sixteen and a half years in prison without parole. The worst sentence is life in prison. Of course, things that make the situation worse can raise the minimum. For example, the minimum sentence goes up to twenty-five years if the crime was done with a gun.
Lastly, you can only be charged with third-degree murder in one very specific situation. So, this charge doesn't happen very often. You or your partner killed someone while trying to commit a nonviolent crime that is not on the list of crimes that count as first- or second-degree murder. If you are found guilty of third-degree murder in Florida, you will spend ten to fifteen years in prison.
You could face more penalties
Prison, fines, and probation are all pretty serious punishments on their own. People often forget, though, that even a third-degree murder conviction can have effects that go far beyond the sentence you may have to serve.
A prison sentence will obviously change your life in a big way. It means you have to give up your friends, family, spouse, and kids.
Ten years is a long time, and even the most important people in your life may not be there when it's over.
In the same way, if you go to prison, it's likely that you'll never work again. Employers don't keep jobs open for you while you're doing your time. While you're being held, you won't be able to keep up with what's going on in your field, practice your skills, or move up in your career. If you're lucky, when you get out you'll have to start all over again.
If you're found guilty of murder, you'll have a criminal record that will follow you for the rest of your life. Everyone now does background checks, whether they should or not. Even if you do the minimum, which is a ten-year sentence, it will be hard to find a job when you get out. You might even find it hard to find a place to live.
Florida Murder Defenses
How a lawyer defends a client who has been charged with murder depends on what happened during the event that led to the death. Since a murder conviction can lead to life in prison or even the death penalty, it is important to hire an attorney who will fight for your rights and try to find a defense that can get the charge dropped, reduced, or a not-guilty verdict at trial.
Some common ways to fight murder charges in Florida and get the charges dropped or changed are:
Self-defense. In Florida, a person can use the "Stand Your Ground" defense if they did something in self-defense. There must be enough proof that the accused was defending himself against another person during an attack where they felt their life was in danger.
Taking someone else's side. This could be used as a defense if the defendant saved the life of someone else who was in danger of dying because of someone else.
Unlawful evidence. If law enforcement got evidence in a way that was against the law, your lawyer will try to get that evidence taken out of the trial.
Not enough proof. If there isn't enough evidence to prove that the defendant killed someone, the jurors might have reasonable doubt, which would keep them from finding the defendant guilty.
Strong alibi. This can be used as a defense if a lawyer can show that the defendant wasn't at the scene of the crime and there is strong evidence to back up the alibi.
Mistaken identity. If it can be shown that the defendant was wrongly accused because of mistaken identity and that the crime was actually done by someone else, this could be used as a defense because it could raise questions.
Ability to think. If it can be shown that the accused did not have the right state of mind to plan and carry out an intentional murder because of mental illness, alcohol, a head injury, or trauma, this can be used as a defense because the person was mentally unfit.
Also, murder may be excused or justified, and the court may decide not to punish the killer for the following reasons:
Excusable homicide. A murder can be excused if the death was an accident and there is no evidence of intent or if the person who did it was acting legally.
Justifiable homicide. A murder may be justified if the person who did it thought that they or someone else was about to be killed in a home invasion or other violent act.
Contact a Florida Homicide Attorney
If you are accused of a murder charge, you may have ways to fight the charge or avoid the harsh penalties that come with a conviction. Here at the Arroyo Law Firm, we offer complete defense services and inexpensive payment plans to help offenders defend their rights. For a free case evaluation, reach out to us online or by phone at 407-770-9000. Knowing your alternatives won't cost you anything, even if you decide not to hire us.