Manslaughter Charges in Florida
A common misconception in the legal field is that a person’s death at the hands of another automatically results in a murder charge. In Florida, there are multiple homicide offenses codified under the law, which include murder, manslaughter, vehicular homicide, and DUI manslaughter. While each offense has different surrounding circumstances, they all carry heavy penalties if the charge results in a conviction.
Manslaughter is the crime committed when a person causes the death of another person, but without the premeditation necessary for murder. Premeditation is the pre-planning of a crime, whereas a manslaughter offense occurs either out of negligent behavior or from a crime of passion. The main difference between murder and manslaughter is the lack of intent to cause the victim’s death.
A person charged with manslaughter can face extremely harsh consequences, such as paying high fines, and facing mandatory minimum prison sentences. While this can cause stress and worry for the defendant, it is helpful to have an experienced and knowledgeable defense attorney on your side.
Finding a Violent Crimes Defense Attorney
Getting accused of any violent crime has the potential to alter one’s life. A conviction may lead to harsh consequences, such as paying expensive fines and being sentenced to prison. Even though manslaughter is technically a less severe charge than murder, this charge should be taken extremely seriously. Your best bet is to speak with a defense attorney early on to discuss potential defenses to your case. Contact the defense attorneys at Ian Goldstein Law at (561) 600-0950 and receive a free consultation today.
Definition of Manslaughter
The criminal act of manslaughter is defined under Florida Statute Section 782.07 as the killing of another human being by the act, procurement, or culpable negligence of another person without the lawful justification of excusable homicide or murder. In Florida, manslaughter charges are broken down into three distinctions:
Manslaughter by Act (Voluntary) – The defendant committed an intentional act that was not justified nor excusable which resulted in the victim’s death. Example: Defendant hits another person in the jaw, resulting in them hitting their head on the pavement and suffering a fatal head injury.
Manslaughter by Procurement (Voluntary) – The defendant either encouraged, persuaded, or induced another person to commit an act or offense which resulted in the victim’s death.
- Example: The defendant talks another person into a fight, and during the physical altercation the person stabs the victim and causes their death.
Manslaughter by Culpable Negligence (Involuntary) – The defendant acted or engaged in conduct considered to be “negligent” which resulted in the victim’s death.
- Example: The defendant operated their motor vehicle in a reckless manner and accidentally crashed into a pedestrian, causing their death.
Voluntary vs. Involuntary
When a person is charged with manslaughter, it is either considered voluntary or involuntary. Despite Florida law not differentiating between the two, the main difference lies within the intent of the offense.
Voluntary manslaughter is often referred to as a “crime of passion.” The defendant did not plan to kill anyone; however, they were provoked, or something happened which caused them to act in a way that resulted in the victim’s death. Voluntary manslaughter examples include bar fights, domestic arguments, or a crime committed in “the heat of the moment.”
Involuntary manslaughter is when the defendant’s negligent actions or recklessness causes the death of another person. The defendant did not intend or plan to kill another person, but they accidentally or inadvertently caused the victim’s death due to reckless or careless behavior. An example of involuntary manslaughter is where a defendant is playing with a loaded gun and it accidentally discharges, causing the victim’s death.
Penalties for Manslaughter
Florida law explains that a person charged with manslaughter faces a second-degree felony. The defendant faces the following penalties if convicted of a second-degree felony:
- Up to a $10,000 fine
- Up to 15 years of imprisonment
- Up to 15 years of probation
Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code considers manslaughter a Level 7 offense. Without grounds for a downward departure, there is a mandatory sentence of 9 ¼ years of imprisonment which a judge must impose upon a defendant convicted of manslaughter. However, it is important to point out that a judge may also impose up to the maximum sentence of 15 years under the manslaughter statute.
Depending on the specific circumstances surrounding a manslaughter case, the defendant may face enhanced penalties. For example, there are more severe penalties for a defendant who displayed, used, or attempted to use a weapon or firearm during an alleged criminal offense.
Instead of facing a second-degree felony, a defendant charged with manslaughter with a firearm or weapon instead faces a first-degree felony. In Florida, the defendant faces the following penalties if convicted of a first-degree felony:
- Up to a $10,000 fine
- Up to 30 years of imprisonment
- Up to 30 years of probation
Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code considers manslaughter with a weapon or firearm a Level 8 offense. Without grounds for a downward departure, there is a minimum sentence of 10 1/3 years of imprisonment a judge must impose on a defendant convicted of manslaughter with a weapon. If the defendant is convicted of manslaughter with a firearm, the minimum guideline sentence is 11 ½ years of imprisonment. Again, the court may still impose a sentence of up to the statutory maximum of 30 years of imprisonment.
In some instances, the defendant may be charged with aggravated manslaughter instead of simple manslaughter. Aggravated manslaughter is defined under Florida Statute Section 782.07(2-4) as a manslaughter offense when the victim is considered “protected” by law. A defendant may be charged with aggravated manslaughter if they caused the death of any of the following victims:
- Elderly person (65+)
- Disabled Adult;
- Minor (Under 18);
- Law Enforcement Officer, Firefighter, Emergency Medical Technician, or Paramedic while performing the duties within their employment.
In Florida, aggravated manslaughter is considered a first-degree felony. As previously mentioned, the penalties for a first-degree felony include up to a $10,000 fine, up to 30 years of imprisonment, and up to 30 years of probation.
Florida Statute Section 782.071 defines vehicular manslaughter as the killing of another human or unborn child by injury to the mother, which was caused by the defendant operating a motor vehicle in a reckless manner likely to cause great bodily injury, or death, to another. To convict a defendant of vehicular manslaughter, the State must prove:
- The defendant caused the victim’s death;
- The defendant operated a motor vehicle in a dangerous and reckless manner likely to cause harm to others; and
- The victim’s death was caused by the defendant’s reckless or dangerous driving.
Vehicular manslaughter is considered a second-degree felony in Florida. However, the charge and penalties can be enhanced to a first-degree felony if the driver fled the scene or failed to provide aid after the accident occurred.
Under Florida Statute Section 316.193, a person can be charged with DUI manslaughter if they operated a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or controlled substance and caused or contributed to an accident which resulted in another person’s death. A person can also be charged with DUI manslaughter if the accident caused the death of an unborn child. To convict a defendant of DUI manslaughter, the State must prove:
- The defendant caused the death of another person or unborn child;
- The defendant was operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or other controlled substances; and
- The driving resulted in the victim’s death.
DUI manslaughter is considered a second-degree felony in Florida. However, the charge and penalties can also be enhanced to a first-degree felony if the driver fled the scene or failed to provide aid after the motor vehicle accident.
Far too often defendants feel as if getting charged with a criminal offense is the same as a conviction. However, there are still defenses which can be applied to fight a manslaughter charge. Each case will be different, which is why it is important to discuss your options with a reputable defense attorney in your area.
The following lists some possible defenses to a manslaughter charge in Florida:
- Excusable homicide: The legal term for when a person causes the death of another person, but their actions are considered lawful and justified under the specific circumstances. For a case to be considered an excusable homicide, it must be an accident or act which occurred without any unlawful intent, negligence, or culpable disregard for the well-being of others.
- Self-Defense: If the defendant acted in defense of another person or persons, self-defense may be a valid defense. The defendant must have reason to believe that the use of deadly force was necessary to prevent the imminent bodily harm or death of another person.
- Stand Your Ground: In Florida, a person has no duty to retreat before using deadly force if they have reason to believe it is necessary to prevent great bodily harm, death, or the commission of a forcible felony.
- Lack of Intent or Negligence: If the prosecution is unable to prove the defendant acted with intent or in a negligent manner to prove culpability, this may be a viable defense.
- Insufficient Evidence: The State must be able to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If they lack sufficient evidence to prove the necessary elements of the crime, then the defense attorney can argue for the charges to be dismissed or for an acquittal.
After getting charged with manslaughter or another homicide offense, your first step should be contacting a South Florida defense attorney to discuss your options and determine which defenses are applicable to your case.
Finding an Experienced Manslaughter Defense Attorney in South Florida
Facing a manslaughter or other homicide charge is not something that should be taken lightly. Penalties for homicide charges are some of the harshest in Florida, which is why it is imperative that you find the right legal guidance. You may be facing fines and possible imprisonment, on top of attempting to navigate the legal landscape.
When you work with Ian Goldstein Law, you can rest assured knowing that you and your case are in good hands. Our attorneys understand the nuances of the law and can help provide support and insight throughout the entirety of your case. We vow to fight for you and aim to get your charges lessened or dismissed. Contact our office today at (561) 600-0950 for a free consultation regarding your case.