Florida law classifies the unlawful killing of another person into several degrees. While the most serious is first degree murder, Florida’s laws on second degree murder come into play on a regular basis. Following is what you need to know about second degree murder in Florida.
The first American jurisdiction to divide murder into degrees was Pennsylvania in the late 18th century. Initially the push to divide murder into degrees was prompted by the desire to penalize murder with some punishment less severe than the death penalty. Gradually American states adopted the practice by statute, departing from the English common law that punished all murders with death.
Ultimately Florida divided murder into three degrees, which is unusual among American jurisdictions.
In Florida, second degree murder is considered to be an act of a “depraved mind” carried out with no regard for human life. In general, second degree murder is prosecuted as such when the facts tend to show that the killing was not planned nor premeditated, but the defendant acted with enmity toward the victim, or the victim and the defendant had an ongoing relationship or interaction.
Second Degree Murder And Felony Murder
Florida law also permits a charge of second degree murder when a person dies as the result of the commission of one of several other felonies, including
- sexual battery,
- aggravated child abuse,
- aggravated abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult,
- aircraft piracy,
- home invasion,
- unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb,
- aggravated stalking, murder of another human being,
- aggravated fleeing or eluding with serious bodily injury or death,
- resisting an officer with violence to his or her person, or
- felony that is an act of terrorism or is in furtherance of an act of terrorism.
If the victim died as a result of an act by a non-participant in the felony, the charge is that of second degree murder.
A conviction of second degree murder in Florida is a first degree felony, which is punishable by up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
However, if the second degree murder conviction is the result of a killing of another when the defendant is committing another felony listed above, the conviction is a first degree capitol felony, which could lead to life in prison or death by lethal injection.
If an accomplice to one of the felonies listed above commits murder while carrying out a crime, a conviction is a first degree felony, which is punishable by up to life in prison.
If the conviction is for an attempted second degree murder and another person is injured, it is a second degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
Common defenses for second degree murder in Florida include self defense, if the force can be shown to be justified to defend against a felony being committed against a person or property.
Accident is also a defense to second degree murder if the defendant can show a lack of intent. If the act can be shown to be spontaneous or negligent, the charge may be reduced to that of manslaughter.