What is First Degree Murder in Florida?

First Degree Murder is laid out in Florida Statute 782.04(1)(a). Under the statute, there are three ways you can be guilty of first-degree murder; if you or a loved one has been charged with murder, don’t hesitate to give us a call; we are open 24/7, ready to serve you and help you resolve your legal situation. The three ways are:

First Degree Murder Charge Attorney

(1) Premeditated Murder:

If the murder is premeditated, then the person will be charged with first-degree murder in Florida. Premeditation simply means planned out in advance and thought about in advance; it is an intentional and deliberate act to kill someone.

  • Example: Defendant doesn’t like his wife, so he decides he’s going to shoot her when he gets home from work. On the way home from work the husband stops and purchases a gun. He then drives home and shoots his wife. This is premeditated first degree murder in Florida.

(2) Felony Murder:

If a person dies during the commission of a specific felony act, then the person committing the felony act will be charged with first degree murder. Here are the specific felony acts that qualify for felony murder in Florida. 

a. Trafficking offense prohibited by s. 893.135(1),
b. Arson
c. Sexual battery
d. Robbery
e. Burglary
f. Kidnapping
g. Escape
h. Aggravated child abuse
i. Aggravated abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult
j. Aircraft piracy
k. Unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb
l. Carjacking
m. Home-invasion robbery
n. Aggravated stalking
o. Murder of another human being
p. Resisting an officer with violence to his or her person
q. Aggravated fleeing or eluding with serious bodily injury or death
r. Felony that is an act of terrorism or is in furtherance of an act of terrorism

Example of Felony Murder: Defendant Kidnaps a person. During the kidnapping, the person being kidnapped chokes to death on a rag that was stuffed in the mouth to keep the kidnap victim from screaming. Even though the death was unintentional because it occurred during an enumerated offense, the Defendant can be liable for first-degree murder in Florida; this murder would be classified as a ” felony murder.”

(3) Unlawful Distribution of Drugs:

According to subsection three of the first-degree murder statute, a person can be charged with first-degree murder if a person unlawfully dies and that unlawful death “resulted from the unlawful distribution of any substance controlled under s. 893.03(1), cocaine as described in s. 893.03(2)(a)4., opium or any synthetic or natural salt, compound, derivative, or preparation of opium, or methadone 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.” In other words, and to give you an example, under a plain reading of the statute, a person can be charged with first-degree murder if a person buys heroin, injects their friend with heroin, and the person dies.

What are the penalties for First Degree Murder in Florida?

If you are convicted of First Degree Murder in Florida, you will be sentenced to death or to life in prison.

Death Qualification for First-Degree Murder in Florida?

The State can waive the death penalty as a sentencing option. If the State waives the death penalty as a sentencing option, then it’s mandatory life in prison. If the State doesn’t waive the death penalty, then there is a separate hearing and sentencing to determine whether the death penalty shall be imposed.

What are the Defenses to First Degree Murder in Florida?

While there are countless defenses to First Degree Murder  in Florida, understand that each case is fact specific and requires a careful consultation with an experienced defense attorney in order to map out the legal defenses to a first degree murder case. Examples of potential defenses to a first degree murder in Florida charge:

  • Alibi: alleges you didn’t do it, and you weren’t even there
  • Wasn’t me: Similar to Alibi, but alleges that you were there but weren’t you
  • Self Defense/Stand Your Ground: Alleges that you were facing a grave injury and defend yourself in the face of your own death if you did not act
  • Not Premeditated: Alleges heat of passion or spur-of-the-moment killing. This is not a complete defense. If you are guilty for a lesser penalty such as 2nd degree murder there are still severe penalties in Florida
  • Accident: For example, showing a friend gun, not realizing there are bullets in it, the gun goes off, killing the friend. The defense is that there no intent to commit the crime, it was just a tragic accident.
  • Framed: Alleges that the cops planted evidence to make it look like it was you. This is part of another defense, such as an Alibi or Wasn’t my defense, but goes on to justify why evidence may appear to show that you were the guilty party despite your innocence.
  • Much More. (the number of possible defenses is vast, as each case is quite specific, with a number of different facts and evidence that must be refuted. It’s important to consult with your lawyer about your defense to first degree murder in Florida)

Questions About First-Degree Murder in Florida?

Any accusation of murder is a claim that should not be taken lightly. Seek the help of an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Orlando if you are facing charges of murder in any degree. Call us for a free consultation to discuss your case, whether it’s as little as a petit theft or as serious as a first degree murder in Florida. Call (407) 930-8912 or email us at smithandeulo@gmail.com, and we’ll start working on your defense right away.

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