It will likely come as no surprised to most people that the killing of another without justification is against the law in Florida. Much less widely known and understood are the degrees of severity for the crime of murder. Following is a discussion of a few of the laws against murder in Florida
First Degree Murder
Murder in the first degree in Florida is the most serious classification of murder under state law. First degree murder falls into three types:
- Premeditated killing,
- felony murder, and
- murders committed in certain drug-dealing situations.
In order to sustain a charge of first degree murder, the prosecution must show that the defendant had a specific intent to kill another person. Frequently this is proven by establishing a plan by the defendant made ahead of the killing, and that is generally proven by showing the defendant’s actions up to the time of the killing.
The crime of felony murder is a killing that takes place during the commission or attempt of certain other dangerous felonies. Florida statute defines several felonies that could lead to a felony murder charge, including
- home invasion robbery,
- sexual battery.
A felony murder charge can be sustained against a defendant who did not carry out the killing himself, as under Florida law a defendant need only have participated in the underlying felony to be guilty of felony murder.
Murder During A Drug Crime
A third type of first degree murder in Florida is a killing carried out during unlawfully distributing or dealing illegal drugs. The original drug crime must be for one of the controlled substances under Florida law. A common charge for felony murder during a drug crime arises when a defendant is accused of selling illegal drugs to a buyer who later fatally overdoses with those illegal drugs.
Second Degree Murder
If prosecutors believe that the killing was not the result of premeditation, they will often charge a defendant with second degree murder. Under Florida law, second degree murder is a killing carried out “by a depraved mind” and without regard for human life. Though premeditation specific to the murder is necessary for a first degree murder charge, the prosecution may show that the defendant had a relationship with the victim without making plans for a murder.
If a defendant was involved in certain other crimes and a killing was the result, a charge of felony murder often results. State law specifies several crimes under the second degree felony murder statute, and the same elements must be proven as in first degree felony murder.
First degree murder is a serious crime, and the punishment for it is just as serious. In Florida, first degree murder is a capital felony, which allows the prosecution to seek the death penalty for it. If the court chooses not to invoke the death penalty, Florida law requires the sentence to be life in prison without the possibility of parole.
A second degree murder conviction can lead to a wide range of penalties in Florida. If it is a first degree felony, a defendant could be sentenced to up to 30 years in prison and fined up to $10,000. If the second degree murder is carried out by during the defendant’s commission or attempt to commit several violent crimes listed in the Florida statute, the second degree murder becomes a first degree capital felony, which would sustain either execution or a life sentence in prison. If the defendant is an accomplice to a listed crime and a death results, the second degree murder is a first degree felony that may lead to a punishment of up to life in prison.
An attempted second degree murder resulting in injury to another person is a second degree felony and could lead to a prison sentence of up to 15 years.