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Orlando Criminal Defense Lawyer > Blog > Murder Manslaughter > What To Know About Murder Charges In Florida

What To Know About Murder Charges In Florida


Murder is the most serious criminal charge a person can face, in Florida or anywhere. In a murder case, the state charges the defendant with the intentional taking of another person’s life. Not only are there serious personal and moral consequences of this crime, but there are drastic legal consequences. Criminal penalties for murder can include life in prison or the death penalty in Florida.

There are different classifications of murder in Florida, depending on what happened and the various facts involved – particularly the mindset of the perpetrator.

First Degree Murder, under Florida Statutes Sec. 782.04, requires proof that the act was “perpetrated from a premeditated design to effect the death of the person killed or any human being”. In other words, there must have been some advanced plan to kill another person. The prosecution will usually attempt to prove this by showing steps taken by the defendant before the killing. This may include circumstantial evidence, witness testimony, computer records, or other evidence showing that some type of premeditation was behind the act. There is no specific amount of time required – whether the defendant planned to kill someone months in advance or minutes in advance, premeditation can still be alleged.

First Degree Murder can also be charged when a person was killed during the commission of a felony, including violent crimes such as battery, robbery, kidnapping or abuse to children or elders. For example, if a defendant fires a gun while robbing a bank, and that bullet strikes an unintended victim, the defendant can be charged with First Degree Murder.

Notably, a person can also be charged with First Degree Murder if they distribute narcotic substances to another individual and that person overdoses from the drug. Cocaine, heroin, opiates, fentanyl, and other controlled substances can lead to death and implicate the person who sold or shared the drug – if the drug was the proximate cause of the victim’s death.

First Degree Murder is a capital felony in Florida, with penalties including life in prison without parole, or the death penalty if the crime was particularly cruel or heinous.

Second Degree Murder, a First Degree Felony, occurs “when perpetrated by any act imminently dangerous to another”, showing a “depraved mind regardless of human life”, but without premeditation to commit murder. This crime can be charged when one kills another in a moment of anger or passion, or during the commission of a felony act. Often, Second Degree Murder may be charged when the prosecution lacks evidence to prove premeditation, or offers to reduce a First Degree Murder charge to Second Degree.

To prove First Degree Murder in Florida, prosecutors must prove each of the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The victim is dead;
  2. The death was caused by an unlawful act of the defendant; and
  3. The defendant’s act was premeditated.

To prove Second Degree Murder in Florida, prosecutors must prove each of the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The victim is dead;
  2. The death was caused by an unlawful act of the defendant; and
  3. There was an unlawful killing by an act imminently dangerous to another, and demonstrating a depraved mind without regard for human life.

In addition to First and Second Degree Murder, Florida is one of three states in the nation that may charge Third Degree Murder. This involves the unlawful death caused – without premeditation – during the course of a non-violent felony act by the defendant. Despite the seemingly unintentional nature of the crime, Third Degree Murder is a Second Degree Felony in Florida involving up to 15 years in prison.

Potential Defenses to a Murder Charge in Florida

Despite the severe nature of the crime, there are several possible defenses available to a murder charge. These can include:

  • Self Defense
  • Defense of others
  • Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” Law (Florida Statutes, Sec. 776.013)
  • Battered spouse or battered child syndrome
  • Accident
  • Alibi
  • Abandonment (the defendant planned a murder, but voluntarily stopped all actions to further the crime, or tried to prevent its commission)
  • Lack of evidence by the prosecution

In addition, violations of a defendant’s Constitutional rights – through improper search and seizure, or illegal interrogation techniques – can unravel the prosecution’s case against a defendant.

Our Orlando Criminal Defense Attorneys Will Help You Fight For Your Rights in a Murder Case

A murder charge is typically the worst crime a person can face. Vigorous and thorough representation by an experienced Orlando murder & manslaughter attorney is critical if you are facing this criminal charge. Your legal fight will start from Day One, and our attorneys will address all issues including bond, pretrial discovery issues, witness identification, and a careful review of all evidence offered by the prosecution. The facts of your case may show that you are eligible for a lesser charge, or even dismissal based on lack of evidence. We will take every step possible from booking to trial to ensure your rights are protected and the truth is heard. Contact Joshi Law Firm, PA to discuss your options.



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