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Manslaughter

Manslaughter Charges in Florida

Despite some common beliefs, not every person charged with the death of another person is charged with 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.

Manslaughter is a serious criminal offense that involves the unlawful killing of another person without the intent to cause their death. In Florida, there are different degrees of manslaughter and each carries its own set of elements and penalties.

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.

Facing manslaughter charges in Florida is an incredibly serious matter, that can have life-altering consequences. In such challenging times, having a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney by your side is crucial to your case. The intricate legal landscape surrounding manslaughter charges requires expert guidance to help build a strong defense tailored to your case.

This page will delve into the intricacies of manslaughter charges in Florida, along with the possible defenses to lessen or dismiss the charges against you.

Manslaughter Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

Although manslaughter charges are considered less serious than murder charges, they can still result in harsh punishments that negatively impact your future. That’s why it is highly important to receive legal help from a skilled manslaughter defense attorney.

Don Pumphrey and his team have worked with individuals across Florida who have been accused of manslaughter. Our firm will do everything in its power to fight the charges against you, aiming to lessen or dismiss them completely.

Call the Pumphrey Law Firm today for a free consultation at (850) 681-7777.

Types of Manslaughter

Florida law explains that manslaughter can be broken down into three categories:

  • 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

Manslaughter charges can be either voluntary or involuntary. Florida’s Statute does not differentiate between voluntary and involuntary; however, there are several key differences between the two.

The main difference between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter lies with the intent of the crime.

  • Voluntary manslaughter is when someone’s death is caused by a crime of passion or in “the heat of the moment.” While the defendant did not have premeditated murder in their plans, they were either provoked or there was some outward action that resulted in the intentional killing of the victim. Examples of voluntary manslaughter include domestic disputes, bar fights, and crimes of passion.
  • Involuntary manslaughter is when someone’s death is caused by the recklessness or negligent actions of the defendant. The person at fault had no intent to kill another person, but they either accidentally or inadvertently killed the victim due to carelessness or dangerous behavior. An example of involuntary manslaughter includes accidentally firing off a gun that kills someone.

Manslaughter; Always a lesser included offense of Second-Degree Felony Murder

In Dean v. State, the Florida Supreme Court 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.

This means that if a defendant is found not guilty of the more serious crime, then the prosecution may be barred from bringing charges for the lesser included offense afterward due to the Double Jeopardy Clause. To learn more about Double Jeopardy, visit our blog page here.

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.

Felony Murder

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, the defendant 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.

Aggravated Manslaughter

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 certain protected victims by culpable negligence, it is considered aggravated manslaughter. A person may face an aggravated manslaughter charge for the death of any of the following victims:

  • Elderly person over 65;
  • Disabled adult;
  • Minor under 18-years-old;
  • Firefighter;
  • Paramedic;
  • Law enforcement officers; or
  • Medical technicians during active duty.

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

A defendant accused of manslaughter can face more severe penalties if there was an alleged weapon involved in the criminal offense. Although it’s not a specified element of manslaughter, the crime can be reclassified to a more severe charge if the jury determines that the defendant used a weapon or firearm during the act or attempted crime. 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 a maximum sentence of up to 30 years.

Vehicular Manslaughter vs. DUI Manslaughter

In Florida, vehicular manslaughter and driving under the influence (DUI) manslaughter are both serious offenses related to causing the death of another person while operating a motor vehicle. However, the two offenses differ in terms of the specific circumstances and elements involved.

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.

Vehicular manslaughter

Vehicular manslaughter is 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. A person can also be charged with vehicular manslaughter for 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.

For the State to prosecute a defendant for vehicular manslaughter, they must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • The defendant caused the death of another person;
  • The defendant operated their vehicle in a reckless manner likely to cause harm to others; and
  • The defendant’s reckless driving was the cause of the victim’s death.

A vehicular manslaughter conviction 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, the penalties are more severe if the driver flees without offering aid at the scene. Failure to provide aid or fleeing the scene of the car accident results in the charge getting 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.

DUI manslaughter

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.

To establish DUI manslaughter, the prosecution must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • The defendant caused the death of another person or unborn child;
  • The defendant was operating the vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, controlled substances, or a combination of both; and
  • The defendant’s impaired driving was the cause of the victim’s death.

A DUI manslaughter charge results in a second-degree felony in Florida. 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 Charges

Facing a manslaughter or other homicide charge is one of the more severe accusations a defendant may face in Florida. However, it is important to stress that even if you have already been charged with the crime, it does not equate to a conviction. There are still possible defenses to use against a manslaughter charge. Depending on the specific facts of your case, a skilled defense attorney should be able to assist you in determining which defenses are applicable.

The following lists the potential defenses to use against a manslaughter charge in Florida:

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:

  1. The death occurred by accident and misfortune when doing any lawful act by lawful means, without any unlawful intent;
  2. The death occurred by accident and misfortune in the heat of the moment and upon any provocation; or
  3. The death occurred by accident and misfortune which was the result of 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.  

Defenses in a manslaughter case will vary depending on the surrounding details of the case. We highly advise anyone facing manslaughter or other homicide charges to contact a skilled defense attorney in their area as soon as possible to discuss possible defense strategies.

Finding a Defense Attorney in Tallahassee, Florida

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. The penalties for the different types of manslaughter charges are too severe to take lightly. If convicted, you may be facing an extensive prison sentence, expensive fines, or both.

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.


Last Updated May 19, 2023

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