First Degree Murder Charge Requires Proof of Premeditation
There is a vast difference between the charges of first degree and second degree murder in Florida. A charge of first degree murder is punishable by up to life in prison without parole, or even the death penalty, while in contrast, second degree murder is usually punishable by a sentence not exceeding 30 years in prison (though in some circumstances, life in prison may be the penalty), as per Florida statute 782.04. As you may be aware, the premise of second degree murder is that it is based on an immediate reaction of emotion, or a “crime of passion.” Conversely, first degree murder is a planned-out, premeditated plot to take another’s life, and is therefore punished accordingly. If you have been charged with first degree murder, does the prosecution have enough evidence to prove that you had time to think, plot, and plan to murder? Was there actually premeditation and what type of evidence is used to prove so?
Proof of Premeditation is Quite Often “Time”
All too often, a defendant is charged with committing first degree murder solely based on the presence of time in between a confrontation or argument and the murder. The theory goes that, for example, after an argument if there is simply enough time for the defendant to go home and think about the confrontation and plan out a murder of the other person, that must be what happened. Time alone should never be the sole evidence that a murder was premeditated, however. The prosecution must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant premeditated and deliberated (thought about the consequences of their actions) in order to prove that first degree murder took place. The prosecution will establish motive to bolster their argument.
Time Needed for Premeditation Can Be Short
According to federal statute 8.107 of the Ninth Circuit Court, the time needed for premeditation and deliberation to occur, “must be long enough, after forming the intent to kill, for the killer to have been fully conscious of the intent and to have considered the killing.” This can actually be a matter of a few minutes or even less than a minute. If two people got into a fist fight, the fight broke up momentarily or one person was knocked unconscious, and during that time the other person saw a rock and hit the other person on the head, killing them, that might be construed as first degree murder. If the prosecution can convince the jury that the defendant had enough time to think about picking up that rock and using it in a deadly fashion, and also enough time to consider the consequences of their actions, the defendant may be charged with first degree murder, assuming self-defense did not take place.
Call the West Palm Beach Attorneys of Scott Skier Today
Contact the experienced criminal defense legal team at the Skier Law Firm today at 561-820-1508 for assistance, whether you have been charged with first or second degree murder. We will passionately defend your freedom and help you to have the charges dropped or reduced.