Michael A. Gottlieb, P.A. - Fort Lauderdale Criminal Defense Lawyer

What is the difference between first- and second-degree murder?

Homicides in Florida are prosecuted as manslaughters and murders. Obviously, these are incredibly serious crimes, with penalties ranging from extensive prison sentences to death.

First-degree and second-degree murder differ on a couple of elements. First, for first-degree murder must involve premeditation and participation in the act. For second-degree murder, a person must have acted with a "depraved mind" and without any regard for human life.

Second-degree murder charges are also possible if the person was committing certain felonies, such as sexual battery, kidnapping, home-invasion robbery and many others. The only time a second-degree murder charge is possible when there is another one of the certain felonies involved is if the person charged did not cause the victim's unlawful killing. The reasoning behind this Florida law is so that it will be a deterrent for people to commit those felonies, as well as providing the punishment.

There are some defenses that can be used for second-degree murder. These include crimes that may be charged as manslaughter, accidental excusable homicide and the use of deadly force as self-defense.

The possible penalties for second-degree murder include life in prison. Florida has severe penalties for felons in possession of a firearm or if a firearm is used to commit or attempt to commit specific felonies. This is called Florida's 10-20-life law. This can affect the penalties for a conviction of second-degree murder.

An attorney can help you if you or a loved one are charged with second-degree murder by determining the defense strategy that suits the circumstances of the case. In addition, an attorney can explain how the 10-20-life law will affect your case if applicable.

Source: FindLaw, "Florida Second Degree Murder Laws," accessed Feb. 15, 2016

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