First, Second and Third Degree Murder

Murder is one of the most serious criminal offenses that anybody can be charged with. However, not all Florida murder cases are the same, nor are they sentenced the same. There are a number of factors that are taken into consideration and those factors will greatly impact the potential outcome in court.

First Degree Murder

Under Florida law, first-degree murder is the most serious classification of murder charges. In order to be found guilty of a first degree murder charge, the prosecution must prove that the individual charged had intent and planning. This means that the prosecution must be able to establish that the accused took steps to intentionally carry out the murder of another person. However, a person may also be charged with first degree murder if a person is killed during the process of a felony. While the intent of the person committing the felony may not have been murder, the court can still pursue first degree murder charges.


In the event a person is found guilty of a first degree murder charge, the maximum punishment is the death penalty. However, if the death penalty is not chosen as the punishment the only alternative is life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Second Degree Murder

Second degree murder differs from first degree murder in that the prosecution does not have to prove the intent of homicide. Instead, the focus of this conviction is whether or not the individual had an ongoing interaction with the victim and if the accused acted with a “depraved mind”. Here, it is not necessary for the alleged murderer to have acted upon a premeditated decision to kill.


Sentencing for a conviction of second degree murder can be 30 years in prison or in some instances life in prison. Factors that may be considered include whether or not the guilty individual has committed previous homicides in the past or their overall criminal history.

Third Degree Murder

Third degree murder is considered the least malicious homicide conviction. This occurs when a person unintentionally murders another individual during the process of a nonviolent crime. However, the exception to this rule is if a person dies from a drug overdose that was supplied by the accused. In that case, the person who supplied the drugs can be charged with first-degree murder.


The potential outcome for a third-degree murder charge carries a minimum of 10 ½ years in prison. However, the punishment cannot exceed 15 years.

Contact an Attorney

If you or someone you know is facing murder charges, do not try to go through the legal process alone. Murder cases can be complex and come down to various details of the case. If you reside in the West Palm Beach area and need assistance planning your defense, contact the Skier Law Firm, P.A. to get the process started right away.

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