Murder

The Villages Murder Attorney

A murder charge in The Villages or any other area in Florida is as serious as it gets. Often, in emotionally charged murder cases, aggressive prosecutors will seek the most severe charges and sentences. 

Florida law defines homicide as the killing of a human being by another, either lawfully or unlawfully. Murder is defined as the unlawful taking of a human life by another human being. 

Florida law breaks down the crimes of murder, attempted murder and manslaughter into categories based on factors like intent, malice, and the circumstances surrounding the offense. If convicted of illegal homicide in Florida, penalties can range from several years in prison to life in prison without parole to the death penalty.

Defending Your Rights After a Murder Charge 

Being charged with a crime – even if the crime is as serious as murder – does not mean you will be convicted of that charge. The state has a heavy burden to prove a case of murder, attempted murder or manslaughter. Criminal investigations are often flawed and the state’s evidence could be vulnerable to procedural and substantive legal challenges. 

Unsubstantiated assertions by witnesses and experts can often be refuted, and the law provides for a number of viable defenses to charges of murder and manslaughter. These include offering reasonable explanations for why deadly force might legally be used, such as when necessary for self-protection or to protect others. 

It is not up to the accused to prove his or innocence, but rather it is the job of the state to prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt. Holding the state to this burden is the job of a murder attorney, and one that the defense lawyers at Whittel & Melton take very seriously. 

Understanding the Difference Between Murder and Manslaughter

There are varying degrees of both murder and manslaughter in Florida. Each has its own elements, potential penalties, and possible defenses. 

First Degree Murder 

Under Florida law, first degree murder charges can be brought under three different circumstances: premeditated murder, felony murder and murder in connection with the illegal distribution of drugs.

Premeditated Murder

A person can be charged with first degree murder when it is alleged that he or she unlawfully killed a human being under a premeditated design to affect the death of the person killed. 

Felony Murder

A person can be charged with murder in the first degree if the allegation is that an unlawful killing of a human being occurred while the person was engaged in the commission, or attempted commission, of certain felonies, regardless of whether they intended to kill anybody. Incidents that can lead to felony murder include:

  • Aggravated abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult,
  • Aggravated child abuse,
  • 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, or
  • Unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb.

Murder Connected to Illegal Drug Distribution 

The third circumstance which would cause a killing to be classified as first-degree murder is if the killing results from the illegal distribution of certain controlled substances when the drug is shown to be the proximate cause of death. 

Penalties for First Degree Murder 

Murder in the first degree is a capital offense in Florida, which means it is punishable by death or life in prison without the possibility of parole. 

Second Degree Murder

In Florida, in order to be charged with second degree murder, an alleged offender must be accused of taking the life of a person without premeditated design by committing either murder with a depraved mind or accomplice felony murder. 

Murder With a Depraved Mind

A person can be charged with second degree murder if they allegedly behaved in a manner that showed a disregard for human life while committing act imminently dangerous to another that resulted in the person’s death. 

Accomplice Felony Murder

A person who acted as an accomplice to a person who kills another human being while engaged in the commission, or attempted commission, of a felony. Acts that can lead to a charge of second degree murder as an accomplice of felony murder include: 

  • Aggravated abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult,
  • Aggravated child abuse,
  • 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, or
  • Unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb.

Penalties for Second Degree Murder 

The crime of second degree murder is a first degree felony in Florida and punishable by up to life in prison. 

Third Degree Murder 

A third degree murder, under Florida law, is charged when a person is accused of unintentionally killing another person while committing, or attempting to commit, a nonviolent or non-drug trafficking felony. 

Penalties for Third Degree Murder 

Murder in the third degree is a second degree felony that is punishable by up to 30 years in prison if a firearm was used, or 15 years if no firearm was used. 

Attempted Murder 

In Florida, a person who acts with intent to kill, even if no homicide occurred, can be charged with attempted murder. 

Like murder, attempted murder is further broken down into degrees: first degree attempted murder and second degree attempted murder.  

First Degree Attempted Murder

To be charged with first degree attempted murder in Florida, it must be alleged that an individual had both the intent to kill another individual and that he or she took a direct step to commit the murder. In addition, it must be alleged that there was premeditation to commit murder. 

Second Degree Attempted Murder

An individual may be charged with second degree attempted murder if it is alleged that he or she had the intent to kill someone and took a direct step towards committing the murder but does so without premeditation. 

Penalties for Attempted Murder 

Attempted murder in the first degree is punishable by life in prison. Second degree attempted murder is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Manslaughter 

Florida law sets forth different types of manslaughter a person could be charged with: voluntary manslaughter (manslaughter by act), voluntary manslaughter (manslaughter by procurement), and involuntary manslaughter. A person who is driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol and causes the death of another while driving can also be charged with DUI manslaughter. 

Voluntary Manslaughter

  • Manslaughter by act, a type of voluntary manslaughter, occurs when a person’s intentional act results in the death of another person.
  • Manslaughter by procurement, also a type of voluntary manslaughter, occurs when a person has persuaded, induced, or encouraged another person to commit an act resulting in the death of another person 

Involuntary Manslaughter

Also known as manslaughter by culpable negligence, involuntary manslaughter occurs when a person engages in negligent behavior that results in the death of another person. 

Penalties for Manslaughter 

Penalties for manslaughter depend on whether the act was voluntary or involuntary and other circumstances, including whether or not a weapon was used. 

Sentences for manslaughter can be as high as 15 years in prison. If the charge is manslaughter with a weapon or firearm, a prison sentence can go up to 30 years. 

Vehicular Homicide 

Vehicular homicide, also referred to as vehicular manslaughter, is the killing of a person as a result of the reckless driving of a vehicle. Reckless driving is defined as driving with willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property, and usually involves speeding, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or racing. Because the driving is so reckless in vehicular homicide cases, there is no requirement that the prosecutor prove the driver had intent to kill. 

Penalties for Vehicular Homicide 

A person convicted of vehicular homicide can receive a sentence of up to 15 years in prison, 15 years of probation, and a $10,000 fine. This sentence can be increased to up to 30 years in prison and 30 years of probation if the person who committed vehicular homicide failed to provide their information or render aid at the accident scene (hit and run). 

Defenses to a Charge of Murder, Attempted Murder, Manslaughter or Vehicular Homicide 

It is the job of the prosecutor to prove each element of the alleged crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Often, there are flaws in the state’s case that your criminal defense lawyer can uncover, such as: 

  • Errors in police procedures
  • Mishandling of evidence
  • Lab and other forensics errors
  • False statements from witnesses
  • Violations of defendant’s rights during any stage of the case 

For example, The Villages murder attorneys at our firm may argue that the defendant has an alibi and, therefore, could not have committed the offense. Attorneys can also argue that evidence was collected as a result of illegal search and seizure, that the state has violated the defendant’s constitutional right to a speedy trial, and/or that the statute of limitations has passed.

Specific Defenses to Murder 

In addition, there are several specific defenses to charges of murder, attempted murder and manslaughter that could be relevant to a particular case. These include: 

  • Self Defense: The justified use of deadly force in the protection of oneself or another.
  • Justifiable Homicide: The person charged took the life while resisting an attempt on his or her life or the commission of a felony.
  • Excusable Homicide: The killing was committed by accident during a lawful act and no malice or unlawful intent was present, the killing occurred by accident in the heat of passion with provocation, or the killing was committed by accident, was not cruel or unusual, and a dangerous weapon was not used. 

Know Your Rights and Your Options 

If you know you are under investigation for an alleged murder, attempted murder, manslaughter or vehicular homicide in Florida or if you have been arrested for or charged with any of these crimes, you need to know your rights and options. 

First, keep in mind that an arrest does not necessarily mean you will be formally charged. It is up to the State Attorney’s Office to review the arrest report, assess all of the evidence and take stock of the anticipated testimony of likely witnesses. The prosecutor might decide the case is not strong enough to proceed and could drop the charges. 

Anytime you are faced with a serious criminal charge, it is always a good idea to contact a murder attorney in The Villages as early in the process as possible. An experienced attorney will keep you from making mistakes that could hurt your case. 

After an arrest, police and state investigators will try to talk to you to see if they can get you to confess or get more information from you so they can collect other kinds of evidence to strengthen their case. They might make it seem that they have your best interests in mind and try to convince you that if you cooperate you will be better off in the long run. Without an attorney at your side it is easy to say something that could be misconstrued by the prosecution. More that one person arrested for a crime they did not commit has succumbed to the pressure of interrogation and inadvertently assisted the police in building a case against them. 

You really do have the right to remain silent and you need to invoke that right. Do not make any statements to police, prosecutors or investigators before contacting a lawyer to represent you. 

Contact an Experienced Murder Attorney in The Villages Today

As former prosecutors with the Florida State Attorney’s Office with years of experience both prosecuting and defending serious felonies, The Villages murder attorneys at Whittel & Melton know how to handle and defend Florida murder and manslaughter cases at all stages of investigation and prosecution. 

If you have been accused of or charged with a serious crime such as murder or manslaughter in The Villages or in Lake, Sumter or Marion County, contact us online or call 352-369-5334.

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Whittel & Melton logo Whittel & Melton, LLC

16850 South Hwy 441, #304A
Summerfield, Florida 34491
Phone: 352.369.5334

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