The Broward County Criminal Lawyers at The William Moore Law Firm have years of knowledge and experience but also deliver legal representation that is steadfast fueled by determination. If you or a loved one has just been arrested for Homicide and now are face criminal charges, contact out Homicide attorneys at William Moore Criminal Defense for immediate legal answers and available representation in Fort Lauderdale.
Defending Homicide Cases
The crime of homicide is committed when the criminal actions of one person unlawfully cause the death of another human being. An identifiable victim's death via the criminal agency of another is the corpus delicti of any homicide.
If the death of another occurs due to forces beyond the defendant's control, and the defendant bears no responsibility for creating the situation resulting in death, the defendant will be relieved from liability for his or her actions. However, if the defendant, by actual assault or threat of violence, causes another person to do an act resulting in injury or death, the defendant is responsible for the actions of the second person, if such actions would have been undertaken by a reasonable person under the circumstances.
Classification of Homicides
For purposes of sentencing, the criminal statutes classify homicides into various types and degrees. Murder in the first degree, for which the death sentence may be imposed, consists of premeditated killings, killings committed in the course of the perpetration or attempted perpetration of certain felonies, and killings that result from certain controlled-substance distribution offenses. A trial court's pretrial decision not to impose a death penalty does not transform first-degree murder into a noncapital crime.
Unlawful killing that is not premeditated, when perpetrated by any act imminently dangerous to another and evincing a depraved mind regardless of human life, is murder in the second degree, which is a first-degree felony. A person also commits a second-degree murder when, during that person's perpetration or attempted perpetration of certain felonies, someone else commits a killing.
An unlawful killing without the intent to kill, by a person engaged in the perpetration of, or in the attempt to perpetrate, certain felonies (generally all those except felonies that lead to felony murder), is third-degree murder, a felony in the second degree.
Vehicular homicide is a type of homicide defined in statute as the killing of a human being, or the killing of a viable fetus by any injury to the mother, caused by the operation of a motor vehicle in a reckless manner likely to cause death or great bodily harm to another. It is classified as a first- or second-degree felony, depending on the circumstances of the offense. There is a similar statute covering vessel homicide.
A homicide may be charged as the residual offense of manslaughter, a second-degree felony. In the statute, manslaughter is defined by what it is not. It is described as killing by one's act, procurement, or culpable negligence without lawful justification and where it is not excusable homicide or murder.
Statutes define specific offenses that constitute manslaughter, including DUI manslaughter, which is punishable as a first- or second-degree felony depending on the circumstances of the offense. Also, various types of aggravated manslaughter, a first-degree felony, are described in statute.
First-Degree or Premeditated Murder
The crime of first-degree premeditated murder consists of the unlawful killing of a human being perpetrated through a premeditated design to effect the death of the person killed or any other human being. It is a specific-intent crime.
The evidence was sufficient to support the jury's conviction of the defendant for premeditated murder; although the defendant did not hit the corrections officer, he admitted that during the escape attempt, he employed a ruse to lure the officer to a mop closet where the codefendant stealthily approached and delivered the fatal sledgehammer blows, and thus, he had the intent to kill the officer.
Motive for the murder, which may be probative of premeditation in a circumstantial case, is not an essential element of the crime, and a person may be convicted of this crime even if no motive is established.
Specific intent is what separates a first-degree premeditated murder from second-degree murder; first-degree premeditated murder requires a premeditated intent to kill, whereas second-degree murder requires an intentional act done from ill will, hatred, spite, or an evil intent without a specific intent to kill. Thus, where the State's proof fails to exclude a reasonable hypothesis that a homicide occurred other than by premeditated design, a verdict of first-degree murder cannot be sustained.
The fact that aggravating factors must outweigh mitigating factors in order for the imposition of the death penalty to be valid under Florida law does not constitute a separate element of the crime of first-degree murder.
Attempted first-degree premeditated murder
The crime of attempted first-degree premeditated murder is committed when a defendant acts from a premeditated design and specific intent to commit the underlying crime of murder and commits an overt act designed to effectuate that intent carried beyond mere preparation but falling short of executing the ultimate design. The elements of the crime, therefore, are: (1) an act intending to cause death that went beyond just thinking or talking about it; (2) a premeditated design to kill; and (3) the commission of an act that would have resulted in the death of the victim except that someone prevented the defendant from killing the victim or the defendant failed to do so. The intended victim need not be injured.
Attempted first-degree premeditated murder is a first-degree felony. Without an enhancement, such as for use of a firearm, it is not a life felony.
Attempted second-degree murder is a necessarily included offense of attempted first-degree murder, as is attempted voluntary manslaughter.