Let’s face it: the law is not always easy to understand. That’s one reason why, if you’ve been charged with a crime, it’s important to educate yourself about exactly what you’re facing. The laws surrounding homicide and murder in Florida offer great examples. These two terms are not synonymous, and understanding the difference can be crucial for your Fort Lauderdale criminal lawyer when they are mounting an effective defense if you have been charged with the death of another person.
Homicide and Murder in Florida: What's the Difference?
The word homicide is based on two Latin root words: “cida,” which refers to killing, and “homo,” which refers to man. Homicide, then, literally means “man killing.” Of course, there are many ways to kill a person, and not all of them involve malicious intent. Most car crashes, for example, are simple accidents. In a worst-case scenario, your actions behind the wheel might lead to the death of occupants in another car. That doesn’t make you a murderer, though.
Murder, of course, is a type of homicide, but it is distinguished by two additional factors—first, murder springs from malicious intent. Murder is committed on purpose. In addition, murder is always unjustified.
What does all this have to do with the law? According to our Fort Lauderdale criminal lawyer, in simplest terms, murder is always a crime. Other kinds of homicide can also be a crime, depending on the circumstances. The law generally refers to these crimes as “manslaughter.”
As our Fort Lauderdale criminal lawyer shares with every perspective client, the state of Florida classifies murder into three separate categories based on the severity of the crime.
- Third-degree murder. Murder is classified as third-degree if it occurs during the commission of a non-violent crime and is unintentional. It is worth noting that drug deaths are an exception to this rule in Florida law. Anyone who supplies drugs to another person who later dies as a result of taking them is automatically charged with first-degree murder. The minimum sentence in third-degree murder cases is 10 1/3 years. The maximum penalty is 15 years.
- Second-degree murder. Second-degree murder is obviously a more serious offense than third-degree murder. Here again, the circumstances that define second-degree murder are specific. “Murder with a depraved mind” involves killing someone without regard for human life but without premeditation. “Accomplice felony murder” involves serving as an accomplice to a serious crime like kidnapping or robbery, during which your accomplice kills someone. The minimum sentence in second-degree murder cases is 16 ¾ years. The maximum is life.
- First-degree murder. The most serious murder offense, of course, is first-degree murder. First-degree murder involves either premeditated murder or murder during the commission of a felony such as sexual battery, drug trafficking, or carjacking. There are only two possible sentences for first-degree murder in Florida: life without parole or the death penalty.
Again, if you have committed homicide and are not charged with murder, you could still be charged with manslaughter if a prosecutor deems your actions “negligent,” either intentionally negligent (voluntary manslaughter) or unintentionally negligent (involuntary manslaughter).
What to Do If You’re Accused? Contact Our Fort Lauderdale Criminal Lawyer Immediately!
There are a number of strong defenses to a charge of homicide or murder. Obviously, as with any criminal case, you can simply argue the facts of the case. You might, for instance, dispute witness testimony or the physical evidence presented by the prosecutor. In addition, possible defenses include:
- Excusable homicide. A killing occurs by accident, happens by accident in the heat of the moment, or happens by accident during sudden combat but doesn’t involve a dangerous weapon.
- Justifiable homicide. A killing occurs while protecting yourself from another person committing a felony against you.
Only a qualified Fort Lauderdale criminal lawyer, though, will know exactly what strategy to use in your particular case. In fact, even before you have been officially charged, hiring an experienced criminal attorney is crucial to making sure your rights are protected, and you don’t make any mistakes that could harm your chances at an acquittal.
For more information about homicide and murder in Florida, or to secure the services of a skilled Fort Lauderdale criminal lawyer attorney, contact our criminal defense law firm online or call 954-861-0384 for a free consultation.