First Degree Premeditated Murder is punishable by a maximum penalty of death and a minimum sentence of life in prison. Criminal Attorney William Moore explores the basic fundamentals of violent crime beginning with the basic framework of criminal acts that result in death.
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Homicide is a much broader term than murder, and includes different classifications of unlawful killings. Homicide laws take into account the circumstances of the case, the intent of the perpetrator, and degree to which the act would be considered a murder. Chapter 782 of Florida Statutes, which deals with homicide laws, was developed from the basis of British Common Law that categorized homicide into felonious and non-felonious homicide.
The main aspect dividing the two categories was premeditation in the intent for killing. Even though Florida homicide laws are based on the Common Law, there are more divisions categorizing the severity and degree of the crime.
First Degree Murder
This category is for purposeful murder committed with premeditation. First degree murder is punishable by the maximum penalty of death under Florida law, or a minimum sentence of life imprisonment without parole. The prospect of premeditation is considered along with the circumstances and other aspects surrounding the case and the killing.
There is no clear indication in the law as to how much time is required for premeditating a murder, to be considered a first degree murder. It can even be just a second. For instance, if a person, pointing a gun at someone deliberately aims for the heart instead of shooting spontaneously. This act of a second’s premeditation to take aim deliberately for a vital organ could be considered as premeditation, even if the shooter had not considered murdering the person before this situation took place.
Even though premeditation is the main aspect for obtaining a conviction of first-degree murder, the law also considers the degree of unlawful killing of another person without justifiable reason. Therefore, murders committed without premeditation while committing certain enumerated felony crimes are still considered murders in the first degree. Filing of first-degree murder charges is only possible by the prosecution by convening a grand jury for deciding if such charges are appropriate.
Second Degree Murder
In this classification, the murder is committed with the knowingness that the act is going to end the life of someone. In Second Degree murder, there is the element of conscious disregard for the life of another human being, and the act is done with a reckless attitude. Hence, a killing done recklessly or knowingly is a second-degree murder offense carrying a maximum sentence of life in prison or a minimum of twenty years jail time.
Third Degree Murder
When there is a murder when a non-enumerated felony is being committed, it is third degree murder charge. However, this type of charge is quite rare, and mostly considered when the jury wants to lessen the charges of first-degree murder, in certain cases.
Manslaughter is committed:
- When the perpetrator commits an act that is neither justifiable nor excusable, which results ultimately in the death of another person
- When a person encourages, induces or persuades another person to commit some act that results in the death of the victim
- When a person acts with culpable negligence, which results in the death of another person
- Manslaughter conviction in Florida carries a maximum sentence of 15 years jail time.
Florida Homicide Laws Regarding Co-Participants
Florida homicide laws apply not only to the person who actually does the killing but also to the person/s who have participated in the underlying felony. The intention of the law is to hold co-participants responsible for the risks associated while committing the underlying crime. Hence, Florida laws do not treat the co-participants of a felony crime who have not committed the murder any differently than the actual killer. –William Moore, Broward Criminal Lawyer