In early 2019, the Florida Supreme Court overturned a first-degree murder conviction of a man who was a teenager at the time. According to finance.yahoo.com, in 2013, the teenage boy was convicted of one count of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder for allegedly killing one individual and injuring another with a gunshot during an altercation. The Florida Supreme Court ruled that the murder conviction should be overturned as the teenager killed the individual in the act of self-defense. However, the attempted murder conviction remained as the court determined “that because [the defendant] hesitated before shooting, a jury could have reasonably found guilt.” After reversal of the first-degree murder conviction, the man will serve 35 years less in prison, with an estimated release date of 2038.
Reversing a homicide conviction is not common in Florida nor any other state throughout the country. Often, convictions are overturned when there is clear error on the part of the trial court or when a defendant has not received effective legal counsel. Many issues that are taken up on appeal address conduct that happens after a person is arrested and answers at least some questions by law enforcement officials. As such, many issues, such as a forced confession, may not arise if a person has spoken with an attorney before answering a single question by a police officer.
Homicide Charges Under Florida Law
Pursuant to Florida law, homicides are considered murder or manslaughter and are measured by degree, with the most severe murder charge being first-degree murder, followed by second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and manslaughter. Prosecutors in Florida typically seek to charge a defendant with the harshest crimes possible under the law, even when the facts do not line up with the criminal charges.
Under Florida Statute Section 782.04(1)(a), murder is the “unlawful killing of a human being.” Murder is considered first-degree when the person carrying out the killing had the intent to kill as well as prior thought or planning, also known as premeditation. A murder is considered second-degree when a killing is “perpetrated by any act imminently dangerous to another and evincing a depraved mind regardless of human life, although without any premeditated design to effect the death of any particular individual.” Second-degree murder does not require intent or premeditation. A murder is considered third-degree when a person kills another in the course of committing a felony such as burglary, kidnapping, trafficking, arson, carjacking, or aggravated fleeing and eluding, among others.
Homicides that do not qualify as murder may be considered manslaughter depending on the nature and severity of the conduct at issue. Under Florida Statute Section 782.07(1), manslaughter is defined as the “killing of a human being by the act, procurement, or culpable negligence of another, without lawful justification,” and “in cases in which such killing shall not be excusable homicide or murder.” Whether a person is facing murder or manslaughter charges, the consequences of a conviction are mandatory jail time, which could range from anywhere between one year and life in prison. Some murder convictions may be considered capital offenses, which could lead to the implementation of the death penalty.
Defending Homicide Charges – The Importance of Retaining a Qualified Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer
Homicide charges are some of the most serious crimes under Florida law. Even though the prosecution has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that a defendant committed a crime, defendants are often at a disadvantage when facing homicide charges. When a person has been killed, the perception is that the person accused of the killing is the likely culprit. Defendants have an uphill battle when facing Florida prosecutors. As such, anyone facing homicide charges or who believes he or she is a suspect in a homicide investigation should find an attorney right away who can begin building a defense.
Having a plan of action before a defendant speaks with law enforcement officials is critical to building a successful defense and avoiding issues that may become appealable later on. Police officers may try to get an arrested individual to speak and may not be clear when indicating that the individual does not need to speak without an attorney present. The biggest mistake a person can make is agreeing to speak with law enforcement officials before speaking with an attorney. All statements made by a person after an arrest could be used against him or her in court. Therefore, no matter what type of criminal charge a person is facing, having an attorney standing by from the initial contact with law enforcement officials can significantly help to ensure an accused person’s rights are protected throughout the entire criminal proceeding.
The right Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer will quickly evaluate a client’s case to determine what possible defenses exist. If a homicide charge can be dismissed based on missteps by law enforcement officials, such as the use of illegally obtained evidence, a qualified attorney will seek dismissal. If self-defense can successfully be asserted at trial, a skilled attorney with experience defending clients in homicide cases will use all resources to help convince the jury that a defendant should be acquitted. When the available evidence in a case suggests a jury may find a defendant guilty, the right attorney may seek to work with the prosecution to negotiate a plea agreement that will have a much less severe outcome than potential conviction at trial. Because there are numerous variables to consider when facing homicide charges in Florida, it is best to allow a legal professional with a track record of success to handle the matter from start to finish.
Contact the Florida Criminal Defense Attorneys of Musca Law Today to Protect Your Rights
If you are facing homicide charges – whether such charges are murder or manslaughter – you must act swiftly to speak with a qualified Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer who handles the most serious crimes under Florida law. If you are a suspect in a homicide case and have not faced any charges yet, it is imperative that you find a lawyer before agreeing to answer any questions. At Musca Law, our nationally-recognized trial lawyers excel at representing the rights and interests of Floridians from all parts of the state. With numerous offices to reach anyone in Florida, our attorneys are ready at any time day or night to meet with clients about their case. To speak with the Florida Criminal Defense Lawyers of Musca Law, contact our office today by calling (888) 484-5057.