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Homicide

The term “homicide” is defined under Florida law as the killing of another. Some types of homicide are unlawful including murder or manslaughter.

The killing might be lawful if it resulted from the use of justifiable deadly force or an excusable homicide when committed by accident.

Attorney for Homicide Cases in Tampa, FL

The attorneys at Sammis Law Firm represent clients charged with the most serious criminal offenses under Florida Law, including cases involving murder or manslaughter.

Our main office is located in downtown Tampa, FL, in Hillsborough County. Our second office is located in New Port Richey across from the courthouse at the West Pasco Judicial Center.

Contact us to discuss your case. We can help you understand the pending charges, the best defenses to fight those charges, and ways to avoid the typical penalties.

Call 813-250-0500.


Types of Justifiable or Excusable Homicide in Florida

The term “justifiable homicide” is defined in Section § 782.02, Fla.Stat., as:

  • the killing of a human being;
  • that is a justifiable homicide and lawful;
  • if necessarily done while resisting an attempt to:
    • murder or commit a felony upon the defendant; or
    • commit a felony in any dwelling house in which the defendant was at the time of the killing.

The term “excusable homicide” is defined in Section § 782.03, Fla. Stat., as a lawful killing of another human being 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;
  • 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.

Types of Homicide in Florida

Three types of homicide cases are prosecuted in Florida including murder, felony murder, manslaughter, and vehicular homicide. The classifications of murder under Florida law include:

  • Premeditated Murder in the first degree under § 782.04(1)(a), Fla. Stat.; or
  • Murder in the second degree under § 782.04(2), Fla. Stat.

Florida law provides for three types of felony murder including:

  • Felony Murder in the first degree under § 782.04(1)(a), Fla. Stat.;
  • Felony Murder in the second degree under § 782.04(3), Fla. Stat.; or
  • Felony Murder in the third degree under § 782.04(4), Fla. Stat.

Classifications for various forms of manslaughter in Florida include:

The last category of homicide in Florida involves either vehicular homicide or vessel homicide prosecuted under § 782.071 or § 782.072, Fla. Stat.


What is Felony Murder under Florida Law?

Felony murder occurs when a person is killed by the person engaged in the commission of one of the enumerated felonies in s. 782.04(2), F.S.

For felony murder charges, it is not necessary to prove that the defendant had a design or intent to kill. The defendant’s state of mind with regard to the killing is immaterial. The death can even be accidental and still qualify as a felony murder. See Adams v. State, 341 So.2d 765 (Fla. 1997), cert. den., 434 U.S. 878 (1977), reh. den., 434 U.S. 977 (1977).


Florida’s First Degree Felony Murder Statute

Section 782.04(1)(a)2., F.S., defines first degree felony murder as the unlawful killing of a human being when committed by a person engaged in the perpetration of, or in the attempt to perpetrate any of the following offenses:

  • Trafficking offense prohibited by s. 893.135(1), F.S.;
  • Arson;
  • Sexual battery;
  • Robbery;
  • Burglary;
  • Kidnapping;
  • Escape;
  • Aggravated child abuse;
  • Aggravated abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult;
  • Aircraft piracy;
  • Unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb;
  • Carjacking;
  • Home-invasion robbery;
  • Aggravated stalking;
  • Murder of another human being;
  • Resisting an officer with violence to his or her person; or
  • Any felony that is an act of terrorism or is in furtherance of an act of terrorism.

Murder in the first degree is classified as a capital felony punishable by death if the proceeding held to determine sentence according to the procedure set forth in s. 921.141, F.S.

The court, upon conviction or adjudication of guilt of a defendant of a capital felony, is required to conduct a separate sentencing proceeding to determine whether the defendant should be sentenced to death or life imprisonment.

The proceeding must be conducted by the trial judge before the trial jury as soon as practicable. After hearing all the evidence, the jury must deliberate and render an advisory sentence to the court, based upon specified aggravating and mitigating circumstances.

After the recommendation of a majority of the jury, the court, after weighing the aggravating and mitigating circumstances, must enter a sentence of life imprisonment or death, but if the court imposes a sentence of death, it must set forth in writing its findings upon which the sentence of death is based.


Florida’s Second Degree Felony Murder Statute

Section 782.04(3), F.S., provides that when a person is killed in the perpetration of, or in the attempt to perpetrate, any of the following offenses by a person other than the person engaged in the perpetration of or in the attempt to perpetrate such felony, the person perpetrating or attempting to perpetrate such felony is guilty of second degree murder:

  • Trafficking offense prohibited by s. 893.135(1), F.S.;
  • Arson;
  • Sexual battery;
  • Robbery;
  • Burglary;
  • Kidnapping;
  • Escape;
  • Aggravated child abuse;
  • Aggravated abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult;
  • Aircraft piracy;
  • Unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb;
  • Carjacking;
  • Home-invasion robbery;
  • Aggravated stalking;
  • Murder of another human being;
  • Resisting an officer with violence to his or her person; or
  • Any felony that is an act of terrorism or is in furtherance of an act of terrorism.

Murder in the second degree is classified as a first degree felony which is punishable by imprisonment for a term of years not exceeding life or by up to 30 years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.

In other words, when a person is killed by someone other than the one who is perpetrating or attempting to perpetrate one of the enumerated felonies it is second degree felony murder. The perpetrator of the enumerated felony commits second degree felony murder even if he or she is not the person who killed the victim.


Florida’s Third Degree Felony Murder Statute

Section 782.04(4), F.S., defines third degree murder as the unlawful killing of a human being, when perpetrated without any design to effect death, by a person engaged in the perpetration of, or in the attempt to perpetrate, any felony other than any:

  • Trafficking offense prohibited by s. 893.135(1), F.S.;
  • Arson;
  • Sexual battery;
  • Robbery;
  • Burglary;
  • Kidnapping;
  • Escape;
  • Aggravated child abuse;
  • Aggravated abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult;
  • Aircraft piracy;
  • Unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb;
  • Unlawful distribution of any substance controlled under s. 893.03(1), F.S., cocaine as described in s. 893.03(2)(a)4., F.S., or opium or any synthetic or natural salt, compound, derivative, or preparation of opium by a person 18 years of age or older, when such drug is proven to be the proximate cause of the death of the user;
  • Carjacking;
  • Home-invasion robbery;
  • Aggravated stalking;
  • Murder of another human being;
  • Resisting an officer with violence to his or her person; or
  • Any felony that is an act of terrorism or is in furtherance of an act of terrorism.

Murder in the third degree is classified as a second degree felony which is punishable by up to 15 years imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.


Life Sentences for Murder of a Law Enforcement Officer

Section 782.065, F.S., requires that a life sentence be imposed on defendants convicted of one of the listed murder offenses if the victim of the offense is a law enforcement officer, part-time law enforcement officer, or an auxiliary law enforcement officer including:

  • First degree murder where a death sentence is not imposed;
  • Second or third degree murder;
  • Attempted first or second degree murder; or
  • Attempted felony murder.

This article was last updated on Friday, January 4, 2018.

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