Florida is one of 27 states in this country that allows capital punishment, or the authority of the judicial system to put someone to death as punishment for criminal behavior. This sentence can only be imposed for capital felonies such as murder, kidnapping at gunpoint, or certain classes of drug trafficking. Imposing the death penalty is actually rare, even though a recent Pew Research Center survey found that 60% of respondents were in favor of the death penalty for those convicted of murder.

Most of us would agree that unlawfully taking another person’s life is the ultimate criminal act—however, every time a news story breaks about someone on death row who was found to be innocent, we are reminded of the responsibility the state has to ensure that anyone facing a homicide charge gets a chance to present their side of the story with a competent homicide attorney at their side.

What is the difference between murder and manslaughter in Florida?

Homicide is the umbrella term that refers to an act that causes the death of another human being. Sometimes these acts are justified, for example, killing an enemy during wartime or shooting an attacker in self-defense. Unjustified or unlawful homicide is considered a criminal act, but since the circumstances surrounding these incidents are so varied, the legal system classifies homicide crimes within two different categories based on questions of intent, motive, malice, disregard for life, depraved mind, or extreme negligence:

  • Murder refers to homicide committed intentionally or with “malice aforethought,” or in the commission of another felony crime
  • Manslaughter refers to a homicide that results from reckless behavior or a violent emotional reaction to a provocation
  • Vehicular homicide results when reckless driving results in the death of a second party

There are degrees of seriousness within each of these categories depending on aggravating circumstances that will determine sentencing. If you have been accused of any homicide crime, especially murder, you need the services of a seasoned Florida homicide attorney. Sando Law, P.C., is committed to providing aggressive, strategic defense counsel for our clients who are facing murder charges because we know how much is at stake in these cases.

What are the penalties for murder in Florida?

  • 1st-degree murder: The act was premeditated, that is, planned ahead of time, or occurred during the commission of another felony crime such as carjacking, robbery, drug trafficking, arson, aggravated assault, or piracy, or occurred as a result of unlawful distribution of a dangerous controlled substance
    • Penalties: Death or life in prison; no parole
  • 2nd-degree murder: The act was carried out by someone with a depraved mind or disregard for life, or by someone acting as an accomplice to someone who committed murder in the commission of another felony crime, including carjacking, robbery, burglary, resisting arrest, or aggravated assault of a senior, minor, or person with a disability
    • Penalties: Life in prison, life on probation, $10,000 fine
  • 3rd-degree murder: The act was committed unintentionally while in the commission of a nonviolent felony.
    • Penalties: 15 years imprisonment, 15 years probation, $10,000 fine

What are possible homicide defenses?

Homicide is one of the most serious offenses you can be charged with, so it can be difficult to see any way forward, especially if the prosecution is invested in bringing a murder charge. The state has the burden of proof, that is, they must demonstrate guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, but their zealousness should never override the defendant’s legal rights. In most murder cases, there is usually irrefutable evidence that a murder occurred—the victim’s dead body. But proving how the death occurred is not always straightforward. Therefore, the prosecution might attempt to build its case using less-than-credible proof, which a skilled Florida murder attorney will challenge.

Contaminated chain of evidence: Law enforcement must follow strict protocols in obtaining, transporting, safeguarding, and examining any evidence that will be introduced into the proceedings. Whenever these protocols are not followed, it raises a red flag for the defense since mishandling of evidence can be human error—or an attempt to manipulate the outcome of the case.

Eyewitness testimony: Research has shown again and again that few of us have photographic memories. How we remember an incident, especially a chaotic and emotionally charged event like witnessing a violent crime, can be influenced by our past experiences, news reports, or even a stray word overheard in the police station.

Circumstantial evidence: In the absence of irrefutable evidence, the prosecution will do its best to create a story by arranging a few random pieces of information into a plausible narrative.

Scrutinizing all evidence and arguments presented in a murder case, especially when capital punishment is on the table, should always be mandatory since so much is at stake in the outcome.

What can a skilled homicide attorney do to help you?

Emotions tend to run high in murder trials. This type of crime triggers strong responses—in law enforcement officers, prosecutors, witnesses, members of the jury, and even the presiding judge. Such moral outrage is understandable, even laudable, but it can cause unfair bias at every stage of the proceedings and undermine the cornerstone of our judicial system—that everyone enters a courtroom with the presumption of innocence. Any experienced Florida murder attorney must work diligently to ensure this vital legal protection is respected, from start to finish.

In Florida murder cases, the prosecution has to prove guilt, and they have numerous strategies and tactics in their playbook. Attorney Sando used to sit on that side of the table before starting his own defense practice, which gives him an advantage in building effective strategies for resolving criminal cases with the best outcomes for his clients. Whether it involves arranging a plea deal to streamline the process within an overbooked court system, negotiating a pre-trial resolution that satisfies all parties, or making a compelling argument for reducing charges, you can trust that Sando Law, P.C., will go the extra mile to safeguard the legal rights of clients facing serious criminal charges in Palm Beach, Miami-Dade, Marin, Broward, and Monroe counties.

We offer a free case review if you want to talk about your best options for moving forward following a homicide charge. Don’t wait. Call Sando Law, P.A., today at 561-296-1665, or toll-free at 833-SANDO-4U.

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