What Is the Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter?
Murder and manslaughter are both considered homicide, meaning someone died due to another’s specific actions. But there are critical differences between them, starting with the fact that murder is done with malicious intent, while manslaughter is typically unintentional. As such, you will face different penalties for murder compared to manslaughter if you’re convicted in Florida. To find out what you should know about these two types of homicide, you should consult a Fort Lauderdale criminal defense attorney for the skilled legal guidance you need.
How is Murder Defined?
Murder is the illegal, intentional killing of a person. The decisive factor determining if a killing is murder is whether it was done deliberately and with malice aforethought. If the police have reason to believe you purposely killed someone or intended to cause them grievous bodily harm, then a murder charge is likely.
The disturbing moral implications of an individual possessing the intent to unlawfully take someone’s life make murder one of the most severe criminal charges possible. Subsequently, a conviction has major consequences to your life.
What Penalties Can You Face if Charged With a Murder in Florida?
If you are being tried for murder in Florida, the potential punishment for a conviction is life in prison. However, the penalties can vary significantly based on the specific murder charge brought against you and the skill of your lawyer. Understanding the charges and possible consequences involved in your case is crucial. Under state law, there are three different degrees of murder in Florida.
First-degree murder is the most serious type of homicide. If you have been charged with first-degree murder, the prosecution is contending that the act was premeditated, meaning you planned it ahead of time. You can also be charged with this crime if you kill someone while committing a felony, such as drug trafficking or carjacking.
First-degree murder is a capital felony that exposes you to the most stringent punishments. If you are convicted, you will be sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole. Under certain circumstances, the prosecution may even press for the death penalty because Florida is a state where capital punishment is allowed.
Second-degree murder is also the intentional killing of someone, but the key difference from first-degree murder is that it’s not premeditated. Generally, second-degree murder is an act committed in the heat of the moment. The accused didn’t take the time to think about their actions or consider the consequences before they harmed the victim, or they were mentally unable to do so. This is known in Florida as “Murder with a Depraved Mind.” This murder charge is also possible if an individual was an accomplice to a felony act where someone was killed, regardless of whether or not they were an active participant in the killing.
The mandatory minimum sentence required by state statutes is 16 ¾ years of incarceration. If a firearm was used in the commission of the crime, the minimum charge increases to 25 years in prison. The maximum penalty is life imprisonment.
In Florida, a third-degree murder is an unintentional and unplanned killing that occurs during the commission of a non-violent crime. If convicted of third-degree murder, you could spend up to 15 years in prison. The main exception to this rule is when an individual provides drugs to a victim, which results in their death. This unique situation can lead to a first-degree murder charge, even though the individual did not intentionally cause the victim’s death.
What is Manslaughter?
If you’re charged with manslaughter, the police believe you killed someone without malicious intent. It means your actions did lead to someone’s death, but you did not intend to kill them. Manslaughter can occur in many different ways and may sometimes be caused by obviously negligent actions. Still, without the “mens rea” (“guilty mind”) that is present in a murder, the defendant will be considered less culpable for their actions. There are two different categories of manslaughter.
Typically, voluntary manslaughter happens in the heat of the moment during situations where one party has an emotional reaction that causes them to intentionally kill someone. Common examples are bar fights and domestic disputes. Voluntary manslaughter is split by Florida state law into two categories:
- Manslaughter by Act: The defendant committed a negligent act that was unjustifiable or inexcusable, and it caused another person’s death.
- Manslaughter by Procurement: The defendant induced or persuaded another individual to perform an act that led to the victim’s death.
Involuntary manslaughter occurs when you act recklessly or negligently, leading to someone’s death, but you did not intend to harm anyone. This charge may be applied if you cause a deadly car accident by making the careless choice to speed, killing one or more people. The penalty for manslaughter is up to 15 years in prison.
How Can a Criminal Defense Lawyer Help You?
Whether you have been accused of murder or manslaughter, the penalties can be severe, and you should contact a criminal defense lawyer immediately for assistance. An experienced attorney will look for evidence that could cause the case to be dismissed. For example, the homicide may be considered excusable or justifiable, depending on the circumstances. Your lawyer may also be able to negotiate a plea deal or downward departure to reduce the penalties involved.
If your homicide case goes to trial, it is up to the prosecution to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. A skilled defense lawyer can collect evidence to support your case and protect your legal rights. To learn more about how an experienced Fort Lauderdale criminal defense lawyer can help you, call George Reres Law, P.A. at 954-543-1186.