If someone is killed as a result of another’s actions, most people
might generally consider this act a murder, but the law is not quite as
straightforward. An individual can face either murder or manslaughter
charges, both of which can result in some serious penalties. However,
there are many distinctions between them and varying degrees of each crime.
Murder is considered the more serious of the two since and carries much
harsher sentences, including the death penalty.
The law defines murder as an intentional killing that is both unlawful
and committed with malice aforethought. This second element is not limited
to intentional killings, but can also exist if a killer intentionally
causes bodily harm that results in the death of another, or acts in a
way that shows disregard for life.
First Degree Murder
When a killing is deliberate and premeditated, this generally qualifies
as first degree murder. A killer would have had time to reflect on his
or her actions and plan the act. For example, if a person poisoned another
individual’s tea with the intent to kill, this would be a premeditated
act of murder. In Florida, prosecutors are required to prove a defendant’s
intent to kill.
If a defendant committed a homicide during a felony, such as a kidnapping
or a robbery, the state can also proceed with a first degree murder charge,
even if the defendant did not personally perform the homicide. A prosecutor
need only prove that the defendant participated in the felonious act that
led to the victim’s death. First degree murder is a capital felony
and, if convicted, one might face the death penalty as punishment.
Second Degree Murder
Second degree murder is the intentional killing of another without premeditation.
While this degree of murder does not require a premeditated plan, it must
show the killing was committed as an act of impulse with malice aforethought,
was a result of an intent to commit bodily harm, or was an act of depraved
indifference to human life. To commit second degree murder with malice
aforethought does not require a plan or premeditation, but rather an intent
to kill in that moment. In Florida, the state can request a term of life
imprisonment for second degree murder.
Third Degree Murder
Florida is among some of the few states that uphold third degree murder
classification, which is defined as the unintentional killing of an individual
during a non-violent crime. It is considered the least malicious homicide
charge. If convicted, one might face 10 to 15 years in prison.
Unlike murder, manslaughter is the unlawful killing of another without
malice aforethought, intent to kill, or reckless disregard for life. Depending
on a defendant’s mental state, manslaughter can be considered voluntary
Voluntary manslaughter is an intentional killing in which a defendant was
provoked by certain circumstances that triggered anger, rage, fright,
or desperation and is generally thought of as a “heat of passion”
homicide. In such cases, a prosecutor would have to prove the defendant’s
provocation and intent. Florida prosecutes voluntary manslaughter as a
second degree felony, possibly carrying a term of 15 years in prison.
If committed against a child or elder, the state will treat the offense
as a first degree felony, increasing the maximum penalty to 30 years in prison.
Involuntary manslaughter is the unlawful killing of another human being
without intent or malice aforethought. It is generally described as a
reckless act that leads to an unintentional killing. For example, if a
defendant was driving while intoxicated, resulting in the unintended death
of an individual, this would be considered involuntary manslaughter. For
a prosecutor to prove this, three elements must be shown, including whether
or not the defendant took a human life, if the act exhibited a dangerous
disregard for others, and if the defendant was in a mental state that
allowed him or her to understand such conduct was a threat to others.
Daytona Beach Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are facing serious criminal charges, you need to contact an experienced
criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. At Law Offices of Robert Stepniak,
we have handles cases from all across Central Florida and are prepared
to defend you. From our main office in Daytona Beach to our satellite
offices in Deland and Palm Coast, we have the experience, knowledge, and
skill that is required to effectively handle even the most serious cases.
If convicted, these crimes can lead to some particularly devastating consequences,
but with our Daytona Beach legal team on your side, you can significantly
reduce your risk of a conviction. Do not put your future at risk. Hire
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Call us today at
(386) 253-4750 to schedule a free consultation.