First degree murder is a serious charge with serious consequences in Florida. Defense attorneys have several ways to defend against a first-degree murder charge, which makes it of vital importance that you enlist the services of the best defense attorney available if charged. Following are several of the more common defenses to first degree murder used by defense attorneys in Florida.
Perhaps the most common defense to first degree murder in Florida is the SODDI defense – “some other dude did it.” A common tactic in a SODDI defense is to introduce evidence of an alibi that would place the defendant at some other location when the first-degree murder was being committed.
Another tactic is to undermine evidence that the defendant was at the scene at the time of the crime. This can be done by challenging a witness’s testimony that the defendant was present at the scene or attempting to raise doubt regarding forensic evidence that tends to implicate the defendant.
In order to employ the SODDI defense, the defendant need not identify the other individual. It simply argues that that other individual exists and was the one who committed the first degree murder.
Elements of Crime Not Proven
In Florida as in every other jurisdiction, every crime consists of several elements that must be proven in order to sustain a conviction. If the defendant can show that even one of the elements was not proven, a conviction of first-degree murder may be avoided. However, doing so may not yield a complete acquittal, as this may still leave the door open for a conviction on a lesser included offense.
Another common method in Florida to defend against a charge of first-degree murder is justification. Typically justification for first degree murder comes in the form of self defense. An argument of self defense generally requires the defendant to prove that
The degree of force used must be proportional, and
the defendant had a reasonable fear of immediate death or serious bodily harm at the time of the killing.
Another form of the justification argument in Florida is known as “battered woman syndrome.” In 1999, the Florida Supreme Court ruled in Weiand v. State that the defendant had been a battered spouse and that using the defense of battered woman syndrome as justification for first degree murder is allowed if the facts of the case support it.
Another common defense to first degree murder in Florida is that the defendant lacked the capacity at the time of the murder to understand that what he or she was about to do is morally wrong. “Insanity” is a legal term in this case that describes a myriad of situations, and it may not result in a complete release of custody for many defendants. Often a defendant acquitted of first degree murder due to insanity is instead committed to a mental institution and held there for up to several decades to undergo treatment for the mental illness that led to the commission of the murder.