If you kill another human being, you will likely be arrested and charged with homicide. Homicide is routinely used interchangeably with murder. However, there are different types of homicide charges. In fact, there are shades of grey that may mitigate the type of homicide charges filed against you. For example, if you kill someone in self-defense or if you are defending the life of another, you may have a valid defense based upon justifiable use of deadly force.
Homicide is generally bifurcated into two categories: manslaughter and murder. Whether you are charged with manslaughter or murder depends on the facts of your case. Manslaughter is considered the “lesser” of the two criminal charges. Manslaughter is basically murder without the intent to harm. For example, if you were holding a gun and it accidentally discharged killing you friend, you could be facing manslaughter charges.
There are different levels of manslaughter. To be sure, if you allegedly caused the death of any elderly person or disabled adult as a proximate result of your negligence, you could be charged with aggravated manslaughter, which is a first-degree felony.
Degrees of Murder in Florida
In addition to a differentiation between manslaughter and murder, there are degrees of murder you must be aware of. If a state believes it has evidence that a killing of another human occurred that was premeditated and intentional, you could be looking at first-degree murder charges. You could also face first-degree murder charges if you allegedly killed someone while committing arson, burglary, kidnapping, and a host of other felony acts.
If you killed someone, but you did not intend to kill them, you could still face second-degree murder charges. These charges could be filed against you if you killed someone while involved in an action that was “highly dangerous to another human being” and allegedly showed a “blatant disregard for human life.” For example, if you were out hunting with a friend and thought it’d be interesting to use a bomb to kill a deer, but wound up killing your friend, second-degree murder charges could arise.
Florida law also allows for third-degree murder charges. These charges may be filed against you if you were allegedly trafficking drugs and a person died while taking those drugs (e.g., cocaine, synthetic salt, heroine, etc.).
Fighting For You in Court
No matter the charges, you should speak to an experienced West Palm Beach criminal defense lawyer. You need someone on your side fighting for your Constitutionally-protected rights. There are various defenses that may apply to your case and could result in a reduction of charges or an outright exoneration. As mentioned earlier, the use of deadly force is justifiable if you are resisting an attacker or protecting the life of another (e.g., your spouse, your child, etc.).
In addition to justifiable use of deadly force, there is also excusable homicide. This is homicide committed while you were performing a lawful act by lawful means and using ordinary caution. An example would be if someone broke into your home and you shot them if you reasonably feared that they were going to harm or kill you. Excusable homicide also includes a homicide committed in the heat of passion with sufficient provocation.
These are just two examples of possible defenses. Contact the Skier Law Firm, P.A. to schedule a free, completely confidential consultation. We are here to help you in West Palm Beach.