Manslaughter Charges in Florida
When a person is charged with the death of another person, it may be surprising to hear that it is not necessarily considered murder. The state of Florida has several different types of homicide offenses under the state’s Statutes. These offenses can be classified under murder, while others are classified under manslaughter.
Florida Statute section 782.07 defines manslaughter as the killing of another human being through actions, procurement, or culpable negligence without any lawful justification.
The main difference between murder and manslaughter is that murder is considered premeditated, or when the defendant had planned in advance to take the life of another person. Whereas manslaughter is the death of another person as the result of carelessness or disregard for the well-being of others.
Manslaughter Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida
Although manslaughter charges are often seen as less serious than murder charges, they can still result in harsh punishments that can severely impact your future. That’s why it is still highly important to receive legal help from a skilled manslaughter defense attorney.
Call the Pumphrey Law Firm today for a free consultation at (850) 681-7777.
Types of Manslaughter
According to Florida Statute section 782.07(1), there are three ways that manslaughter can be committed:
- Manslaughter by Act (Voluntary) – The defendant has committed an intentional act that was neither justified nor excusable and resulted in the death of another human being.
- Manslaughter by Procurement (Voluntary) – The defendant has encouraged, persuaded, or induced another person to commit an act that resulted in the death of another human being.
- Manslaughter by Culpable Negligence (Involuntary) – The defendant has engaged in conduct considered “culpably negligent” which resulted in the death of another human being.
Voluntary vs. Involuntary Manslaughter
When addressing a manslaughter charge, it can be referred to as either voluntary or involuntary. The state’s Statute does not differentiate between voluntary and involuntary; however, there are several key differences between the two. In addition, a judge’s decision can be influenced depending on the circumstances of a manslaughter case.
The main difference between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter lies with the intent of the crime.
- Voluntary manslaughter is considered when the death happens in “the heat of the moment.” While the defendant did not have premeditated murder in their plans, something happened or the person was provoked, which resulted in the intentional killing of another person. Examples of voluntary manslaughter include domestic disputes, bar fights, and crimes of passion.
- Involuntary manslaughter is considered when the death happens due to recklessness or negligence from the defendant. The person at fault had no intent to kill another person, but either accidentally or inadvertently killed the victim due to carelessness or dangerous behavior. Examples of involuntary manslaughter include accidentally firing off a gun that kills someone.
Manslaughter; Always a lesser included offense of Second-Degree Felony Murder
The Florida Supreme Court in Dean v. State held that a Manslaughter charge is a necessarily lesser included offense to a second-degree felony murder charge; this is because both charges require some action by the offender which led to the death of the victim.
The two elements of Manslaughter are (1) the unjustified or inexcusable killing of another person, and (2) a causative link between the death and the act, procurement, or culpable negligence of the accused.
A lesser included offense is a crime that has the elements that are contained in another, but more serious offense. A necessarily included offense is the phenomenon in which lesser included offenses where it would be impossible to commit the more serious crime without the lesser crime as well.
The following is a list of examples of lesser included offenses:
To find out more about lesser included offenses in Florida and how identify them, read our page here.
Under Florida Statute section 782.04(1)(a)(2), felony murder is defined as when an individual kills another person while engaging or attempting to commit a crime that is considered a statutory felony. That means if the defendant committed a felony which resulted in the death of another person—even if there was no malicious intent to kill—the defendant could be charged with felony murder.
If a person is convicted of felony murder, it is treated the same way as a first-degree murder. The penalty for a first-degree murder is a capital felony resulting in either life in prison without parole or the death penalty.
To read more about felony murder, find our informative page here.
Penalties for Manslaughter
Manslaughter is considered a second-degree felony in the state of Florida. If convicted of a manslaughter charge, a person can face the following penalties:
- Up to $10,000 fine
- Up to 15 years in prison
- Up to 15 years of probation
Under Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code, manslaughter is a Level 7 offense. If there are no grounds for a downward departure sentence, then the required sentence a judge must give a person convicted of manslaughter is a minimum sentence of 9 ¼ years in prison. However, the judge could still give the defendant the maximum sentence of up to 15 years in prison.
There are certain circumstances in which a manslaughter charge can be enhanced to aggravated manslaughter. Florida Statute section 782.07(2)-(4) explains that when an individual causes the death of an elderly person, disabled adult, minor, law enforcement officer, firefighter, or EMT by culpable negligence, it is considered aggravated manslaughter.
Aggravated manslaughter is considered a first-degree felony in Florida. A first-degree felony results in the following penalties:
- Up to a $10,000 fine
- Up to 30 years in prison
- Up to 30 years of probation
Manslaughter with a Weapon or Firearm
The penalties for a manslaughter charge can be more severe if there was a weapon involved. It is considered a first-degree felony if a manslaughter charge involves a weapon or firearm. A first-degree felony results in the following penalties:
- Up to a $10,000 fine
- Up to 30 years in prison
- Up to 30 years of probation
Under the Florida Criminal Punishment Code, both manslaughter with a weapon and manslaughter with a firearm are assigned as Level 8 offenses. If there are no grounds for a downward departure sentence, then the required sentence a judge must give a person convicted of manslaughter with a weapon is a minimum sentence of 10 1/3 years in prison. If the person is convicted of manslaughter with a firearm, then the required sentence a judge must give a person is a minimum of 11 ½ years in prison. A judge can also still sentence the defendant to the maximum sentence of up to 30 years.
Vehicular Manslaughter vs. DUI Manslaughter
If an individual has killed another person while driving a vehicle, then it is considered vehicular manslaughter. If the person was operating the vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol which results in the death of another person, then it is considered DUI manslaughter.
Defined under Florida Statute section 782.071 as when a person operates a vehicle in a reckless manner that results in the death of another human being or the killing of an unborn child by causing an injury to the pregnant mother. The driver does not need to be under the influence to receive a vehicular manslaughter charge since the deciding factor for this conviction focuses on whether the driver was operating the vehicle in a careless and negligent manner.
Getting convicted of vehicular manslaughter can result in a second-degree felony. Penalties for a second-degree felony include up to a $10,000 fine and up to fifteen years in prison.
However, if the driver flees without offering aid at the scene, then the charge can be enhanced to a first-degree felony. The penalties for a first-degree felony include up to a $10,000 fine and up to 30 years in prison.
Separately codified under the standard DUI statute. Section 316.193(3)(c)3 defines DUI manslaughter as when an individual operates a vehicle while intoxicated at a level above the legal limit, which causes the death of another person or unborn baby. The main factor that separates vehicular manslaughter from DUI manslaughter is the level of intoxication of the driver. A DUI manslaughter charge results in a second-degree felony. Penalties for a second-degree felony include up to a $10,000 fine and up to fifteen years in prison.
Similar to vehicular manslaughter, a DUI manslaughter charge can be enhanced to a first-degree felony if the driver flees the scene or refuses to offer aid. The penalties for a first-degree felony include up to a $10,000 fine and up to 30 years in prison.
You can find out more about the differences between DUI manslaughter and vehicular manslaughter—along with their possible defenses—on our informative page here.
Defenses to Manslaughter
Even if you have been charged with a manslaughter offense, that does not mean that there is no defense to your case. Depending on the specific facts of your situation, a skilled defense attorney should be able to assist you in determining if any applicable defenses apply to your case.
Some of the defenses that can be used in a manslaughter case include excusable homicide, justifiable homicide, or self-defense.
Excusable homicide is the lawful death of another person and can therefore be used as a defense to a manslaughter charge. Excusable homicide is described in three separate circumstances:
- The death occurred by accident and misfortune when doing any lawful act by lawful means, without any unlawful intent;
- The death occurred by accident and misfortune in the heat of the moment and upon any provocation; or
- The death occurred by accident and misfortune with was the result from sudden combat, and if there was no weapon used and if it was not committed in a cruel manner.
Justifiable Homicide can be used as a defense if the death happened while resisting an attempt for another person to commit a felony against or attempt to harm or kill you.
Self-Defense is a common defense used in Florida since it is considered a “Stand Your Ground” state. Florida Statute section 776.032 defines the justifiable use of force as the immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action for the justified use of force.
To raise a self-defense claim, the defendant must establish a prima facie case (a showing that all the elements of the defense are met). Once this is established, the burden of proof shifts to the State to overcome the defendant’s immunity to prosecution.
A person can raise a self-defense claim in the following situations:
- When they use or threaten to use force, except deadly force, in order to defend themselves or another person’s use of imminent unlawful force.
- A person in Florida is justified in using or threatening to use deadly force only if they believe that this is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to themselves or another, or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.
- During the protection of their Home, so long as they have a right to be there and they are not engaged in criminal activity.
- In the protection of their property, they can use or threaten to use force, except deadly force, against another person if this is reasonably necessary to prevent their wrongful or criminal conduct.
You can read more about self-defense and the state’s Stand Your Ground law on our page here.
Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida
The penalties for the different types of manslaughter charges are too severe to take lightly. If you or a loved one has been accused of a manslaughter charge, prioritize seeking legal help from an experienced manslaughter defense attorney in your area. Don Pumphrey and his team at Pumphrey Law Firm have represented clients across the state for various violent crime charges. To receive a free consultation regarding your case, give us a call at (850) 681-7777 or leave us an online message on our website. Your future is too important to protect, so work with one of our attorneys today and build a strong defense for your case.