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Third Degree Murder in Florida

Arrested man for murder

Murder is the taking of another human life. However, the legal definition of murder is more complex than that. Murder is different than homicide, which is the killing of another human being. Sometimes homicide is a crime, and other times it may not be. 

Imagine a police officer lawfully kills a person in the line of duty; they have committed a homicide, but not a murder.  Murder also differs from manslaughter because of intent. Florida places murder into three different degrees, with First Degree Murder being the most serious, followed by Second Degree Murder, and then Third Degree Murder. 

FAQ About Third Degree Murder Florida

Below, we’ve compiled some of the most frequent questions about unlawful killing, murder and its varying degrees, and any other violent act that could lead to bodily injury or death. If you’ve been charged with a criminal act, then read on for ways to support your claim and speak to a Third Degree Murder Attorney in Florida right away. 

What are the murder rates in Florida?

The U.S. murder rate rose by 30% in 2020 and was at its highest level in decades. There were a total of 1,290 murders in Florida in 2020 or 5.9 for every 100,000 people. That ranked as the 25th highest murder rate among states. The 2020 national homicide rate was 6.5 per 100,000.

Florida has a lower than average murder rate, and its overall violent crime rate is also lower than the national average. There were a total of 384 violent crimes reported for every 100,000 people in Florida in 2020, compared to 399 per 100,000 nationwide.

What are the different degrees of murder in Florida?

According to Florida Statutes 782.04, if someone kills another person “in the perpetration, or in the attempt to perpetrate” any of the following crimes, they may be found guilty of murder in the first degree:

  • Acts of terrorism
  • Aggravated abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult
  • Aggravated fleeing or eluding that causes serious bodily injury or death
  • Aggravated child abuse
  • Aggravated stalking
  • Aircraft piracy
  • Arson
  • Burglary
  • Carjacking
  • Certain traffic offenses
  • Home-invasion robbery
  • Human trafficking
  • Kidnapping
  • Robbery
  • Sexual battery
  • Unlawful distribution of certain controlled substances if they are proven to be the proximate cause of the death of the user
  • Unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb
  • Violently resisting an officer

What is Third Degree Murder according to Florida laws?

Florida Statute 782.04(4) stipulates that third-degree murder occurs when a person unintentionally kills another person while committing, or attempting to commit, a non-violent felony.

Third-degree murders must have occurred “without any design to effect death.” To be clear, the murder must be accidental and not pre-meditated. This distinction is paramount because second-degree murder involves a similarly unintentional killing but is “perpetrated by any act imminently dangerous to another and evincing a depraved mind regardless of human life.”

Are there any exceptions to the non-violent standard of Third Degree Murder?

The most notable exception to the non-violent standard is when someone’s death is caused by ingesting drugs that were provided to the deceased by another person. In this example, the crime could be charged as First Degree Felony Murder.

What are the penalties for Third Degree Murder?

Third Degree Murder is a Second Degree Felony in Florida.  It is punishable by up to fifteen years in prison, fifteen years of probation, and a $10,000 fine.

Third Degree Murder is ranked a Level 8 offense according to the severity rankings under Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code. A judge is required to sentence a person convicted of Third Degree Murder to a minimum sentence of 10⅓ years in prison, but may also sentence the person up to the statutory maximum of 15 years in prison. 

If you’re facing penalties for a potential Third Degree Murder conviction or any other serious crime, speak with a Florida criminal laws professional today. 

What Is the difference between First, Second, and Third Degree Murder?

Florida requires premeditation, or the development of a plan, for first-degree murder. Florida also considers causing a death while committing a violent felony to be first-degree murder. This is called felony murder. Some states consider felony murder to be second-degree murder.

Second-degree murder charges occur when the defendant intended to commit murder but did not plan it out in advance. Florida also considers it to be second-degree murder when the defendant intends on causing serious bodily harm and knows or should have known that death could result from the act.

Only three states have third-degree murder laws, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Florida. 

However, most states have different levels of murder charges and impose lesser sentences for the lesser crime.

What’s the difference between Third Degree Murder and Manslaughter in Florida?

Florida law Statutes 782.07 defines manslaughter 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.” 

The definition of manslaughter is similar to third-degree murder because both involve killing another human being by accident. Both crimes are considered second-degree felonies under Florida law. 

Florida establishes two types of manslaughter: voluntary and involuntary. While voluntary manslaughter describes an intentional act performed during a provocation or heat of passion, involuntary manslaughter does not require intent to kill or even intent to perform the act that caused the victim’s death.

The distinction between third-degree murder and manslaughter is that manslaughter often occurs when people make costly errors. This occurs when some people accidentally kill others just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

Sometimes, people are killed simply because someone else was doing something that they had no right to do under the law. This death could have been avoided if the killer had remained a law-abiding citizen.

The main differences between manslaughter and third-degree murder are how they affect your criminal record because the penalties may be the same. Third degree murder penalties are added to whichever crimes the defendant did at the time, and individuals charged with third degree murder may experience more legal problems than those charged with manslaughter.

If you or a loved one are dealing with any matters related to charges of third-degree murder or manslaughter, you should contact an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney immediately. 

What are the most common legal defenses to Third Degree Murder?

Many Florida criminal defense attorneys have used Excusable Homicide, Justifiable Homicide, or Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law as common defenses against murder charges. 

The most common defenses to a third-degree murder charge include:

  • Innocence and proving the crime wasn’t committed by the defendant 
  • Insanity pleas that state the defendant was mentally impaired and didn’t understand what they were doing
  • Self-defense pleas that involve protecting oneself from immediate and serious harm
  • Acting in defense of others, meaning the defendant was protecting others from serious harm.
  • Exercise of duty, which excuses a law enforcement officer or a public officer who killed without unlawful intent, recklessness, or negligence

If you have been charged with third-degree murder, hire an adept criminal defense lawyer familiar with Florida’s third-degree murder laws. You’ll want to find an attorney who can determine which defenses can be used to protect you from life imprisonment, a capital felony, premeditated murder, or any harmful murder charges involving the murder of another human. 

What is Excusable Homicide?

According to Florida statutes, the killing of a human being is excusable, and therefore lawful, under the following circumstances:

  • If 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
  • If the killing occurs by accident and misfortune in the heat of passion, upon any sudden and sufficient provocation
  • If the killing is committed by accident and misfortune resulting from a sudden combat, if a dangerous weapon is not used, or if the killing is not done in a cruel or unusual manner

What is Justifiable Homicide in Florida?

According to Florida law, killing of a human being is justifiable homicide and lawful if done while resisting an attempt by someone to kill you or commit a felony against you.

How does Florida define ‘Self Defense’?

In Florida, self-defense is a type of affirmative defense used to avoid the legal effect of an otherwise unlawful violent act. A self-defense claim acknowledges that a violent act occurred but excuses the act on the grounds that it was reasonably necessary to repel another person’s imminent use of unlawful force.

What should I do if I’m charged with Third-Degree Murder in Florida?

​​If you’re convicted of a third-degree felony in Florida, you could possibly serve up to five years in prison, five years probation, and pay up to $5,000 in fines and restitution. Probation can affect your ability to travel out of state, and you may be subject to random drug and alcohol tests, have to appear in court regularly, and could risk going to jail for minor crimes like jaywalking if you violate probation.

Unlawful killing, use of deadly force, or causing serious bodily injury can result in a felony murder charge or even the death penalty. Properly representing the details of your cause may be the difference in your being charged with a lesser crime like aggravated abuse instead of premeditated murder. 

Florida third-degree law professionals suggest contacting a criminal defense lawyer if you have been arrested or charged with a crime in Florida. Your initial consultation is free and skillful attorneys are standing by to advise you on the proper course of action.