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Dealing with any criminal charge can be difficult, but premeditated murder or felony murder are the most serious charges you can face. If you have been charged with first- or second-degree murder, you need an experienced and skilled Florida criminal defense attorney to help you as soon as possible. The attorneys at Apfelbaum Law may be able to assist you with your criminal matter.

According to Florida law, either premeditated murder or felony murder is a First-Degree Murder charge. Premeditated murder is committed when a person kills another human being while carrying out a pre-planned act or scheme to end a life. Felony murder is committed when a person kills another human being while engaged in the commission, or attempted commission, of certain statutorily enumerated felonies, regardless of whether they intended to cause anyone’s death. These felonies include but may not be limited to:

  • Aggravated child abuse
  • Aggravated abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult
  • Aggravated stalking
  • Aircraft piracy
  • Arson
  • Burglary
  • Carjacking
  • Distribution of controlled substances
  • Escape
  • Home invasion robbery
  • Kidnapping
  • Murder of another human being
  • Resisting officer with violence
  • Robbery
  • Sexual battery
  • Terrorism
  • Trafficking in controlled substances
  • Unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb

For example, say that John and two others have been charged with burglary. During this burglary, the homeowner arrived unexpectedly, struggled with one of the burglars, and was shot to death. John may have had nothing to do with shooting the homeowner. He may not have been armed himself, and may not have known that one of his coconspirators even had a weapon. He may even have been in a different room of the house when the shooting occurred. But if he has been charged with the burglary, he can also be charged with felony murder for the homeowner’s death.

Penalties for First Degree Murder

Penalties for first degree murder in Floridad include the death sentence or life in prison. In some cases, prosecutors may choose not to seek the death sentence and to seek life in prison instead. If they are successful, the convicted person will not be eligible for parole. If the State does seek the death penalty and the defendant is convicted, the court will hold a separate sentencing hearing to determine if they will receive the death penalty or life in prison.

Defenses to First Degree Murder

There are many options and strategies your Florida criminal defense attorney will discuss with you as may pertain to your particular case.

Excusable Homicide

Under Florida law, the killing of a human being may be excusable, and therefore lawful, under any one of the following three circumstances:

  • When the killing is committed by accident and misfortune in doing any lawful act by lawful means with usual ordinary caution and without any unlawful intent, or
  • When the killing occurs by accident and misfortune in the heat of passion, upon any sudden and sufficient provocation, or
  • When the killing is committed by accident and misfortune resulting from a sudden combat, if a dangerous weapon is not used and the killing is not done in a cruel or unusual manner.

For example, let’s say that Ted becomes involved in a bar fight, strikes someone, and they fall down, hit their head, and die. He and his attorney might argue that he never meant to kill the other person, that he was simply defending himself in a fight, and the death was a tragic accident. 

Justifiable Homicide

The killing of a human being may be justifiable homicide and lawful if committed while resisting an attempt by someone to kill you or to commit a felony against you. If you and your attorney decide on this strategy, you’ll need to present evidence that the deceased person was trying to kill you or commit a felony against you. This may include things like pictures of your injuries or medical records of them, evidence your house was broken into, threats made against you, etc.

Self-Defense

Also sometimes called the justified use of deadly force, self-defense is a defense to the crime of First Degree Murder. Again, you and your attorney will need to show evidence that you were defending yourself.

In some cases, if the state’s attorneys believe you have a good case for one of these defenses, they may reduce the charges to manslaughter, or another lesser charge. These can still carry serious penalties, and should be consulted with an experienced criminal attorney.

If you need assistance with your murder or other criminal case, or have questions about any potential legal matter, please contact Apfelbaum Law for a consultation. We have offices in Port St. Lucie and Stuart, but provide legal services throughout the Treasure Coast and Florida.