What is murder in the second degree?
When the state of Florida brings murder charges, they can bring it as first, second, or third degree. If you commit murder in the first degree, it means that you’ve killed someone intentionally, and you had thought about or planned it beforehand. It wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision. Murder in the second degree basically means that you killed someone intentionally but without the premeditation aspect of it. In the law, we refer to it as you have had a “depraved heart”, showing a callous disregard for human life. A good example is if you fired a gun into a crowd and killed somebody. You knew what you were doing, there was an ill intent, but it certainly wasn't premeditated. Intent counts for a lot of criminal charges, and murder is no exception.
Like first degree murder, there is an alternative way that the state can prosecute you. It can still be done through what we call felony murder. Felony murder is when people who are actively committing a certain type of felony and, as a result of committing that felony, somebody dies. They could be charged with committing felony murder instead of second-degree murder. Now, what's important to remember is if someone is an active participant in that underlying felony, then that would be first-degree murder. If they were even just a non-participant, like maybe an accomplice, they could be still be brought in under that prosecution for second-degree murder.
Even though it's second-degree murder, it is still a first-degree felony, which is the most serious category of a felony in this state. It's punishable by up to life in prison. I think what a lot of people fail to realize is there are minimum mandatory prison sentences in excess of a decade that is at stake. The mandatory minimum for a second-degree murder involving a firearm— remember the example of firing a gun into a crowd?— is 25 years. People accused of any degree of murder including second really need competent counsel by their side to properly investigate and defend those cases. Our lawyers are here as often as you need them to put in that time or energy.
We know there are three main defenses you can use when it comes to second-degree murder: excusable homicide, justifiable homicide, and self-defense. A homicide is considered potentially excusable if it is committed by accident or misfortune. If there was a sudden and sufficient provocation; if the homicide was committed as a result of sudden combat; or if the defendant was in the process of committing a lawful act by lawful means without any unlawful intent, that homicide would be considered excusable. Justifiable homicide is committed when the defendant is defending themselves from someone else’s attempt to murder them or commit a felony against them. Self-defense is also called the justifiable use of deadly force, and it is committed when the defendant is defending them from second-degree murder. We know the ins and outs of these types of cases, what kind of defense to use, what’s the right way to tell your side of the story and keep you a free citizen. If you’re facing charges of second-degree murder and need a strong defense, give us a call.