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While the terms ‘murder’ and ‘homicide’ are frequently used in an interchangeable manner, they are actually two different acts. Understanding differences in terminology can be as important as knowing what each crime constitutes of. Homicide is not always a crime, while murder is a criminal act that may lead to the death penalty or life in prison. Cases involving the death of another individual should always be taken very seriously. The circumstances of each individual case will be taken into account during a criminal trial. This means that criminal cases of this nature may become complex and involve aggressive prosecution at many different levels. In some situations, murder cases will be tried federally. Federal charges may be given in correlation with state charges, meaning twice as many counts of each criminal activity and double jeopardy sentencing. The state of Florida prosecutes murder and homicide crimes aggressively and the resulting penalties can be severe at any level. Always retain a skilled Fort Lauderdale murder defense lawyer to represent you.

If you have been accused of homicide or murder or if you believe that allegations of this kind may be raised against you, retaining qualified legal counsel as soon as possible is essential. The sooner you retain an experienced attorney, the more likely your rights are to be protected. Joffe Law, P.A., has a criminal defense attorneys available to defend clients at both federal and state levels.

Below, we list some of the most commonly prosecuted murder and homicide crimes, the acts may lead to criminal charges, some available defenses for these crimes, and the usual subsequent penalties.

Homicide defined

Homicide usually involves the killing of another individual without the presence of malice or felony circumstances. Penalties for homicide will vary depending on the intentions and levels of recklessness behind an act that results in the death of another.

Murder defined

The act of ‘murder is always considered to be a crime and is accompanied by the most serious charges and penalties available. Murder is defined as a malicious act in which one individual intentionally kills a victim out of spite, hatred, or ill will. Murder differs from manslaughter in that murder is an intentional act that may or may not be premeditated but is always carried out with purpose. Manslaughter is prosecuted differently than murder because it usually involves either intentional negligence (Voluntary Manslaughter) or unintentional negligence (Involuntary Manslaughter). Only an experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to accurately tell you what category a crime involving the death of another will fall under. Murder is classified in three different degrees: Murder in the First Degree, Murder in the Second Degree, and Murder in the Third Degree.

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Murder in the first degree

Murder in the first degree falls under Florida Statute 782.04(1)(a). It is then divided and subcategorized as either Premeditated Murder or Felony Murder. Both charges carry different penalties and have multiple criminal charges that may be imposed simultaneously if charges lead to a conviction.

Premeditated Murder

Under Florida Statute 782.04(1)(a)(1), the crime of felony murder happens when one individual kills another intentionally after pre-planning to do so.

Felony murder

Felony Murder falls under Florida Statute 782.04(1)(a)(2). It occurs when an individual is involved in any of the following felony activities as the death of another person subsequently takes place. Whether or not the accused individual actually intended to kill another person before or during the felony criminal act, is irrelevant.

  • aggravated abuse of the elderly or disabled people
  • aggravated child abuse
  • aggravated Stalking
  • aircraft piracy
  • arson
  • burglary
  • carjacking
  • distribution of controlled substances
  • home-invasion robbery
  • kidnapping
  • resisting Officer with violence
  • robbery
  • sexual battery
  • terrorism
  • trafficking in controlled substances
  • throwing or discharging a destructive device or bomb


Murder in the First Degree is a Capital Offense in Florida. It only has two sentences that are possible if an individual is convicted.

  • Life in prison without the possibility of parole
  • the death penalty


There are both pretrial defenses and trial defenses that can be raised in any criminal case. Defenses to First Degree Murder include:

    • Excusable homicide: This occurs when killing is committed either by accident while doing a lawful act with ordinary caution, when accidentally during a moment of passion from an act of misfortune, or when during sudden unexpected combat without a dangerous weapon.
    • Justifiable homicide: If killing was done to prevent a felony unlawful act being committed, it may be considered justifiable homicide.
    • Self defense: Self defense is also known as the justified use of deadly force and is one of the main defenses to first-degree murder charges.

Murder in the second degree

This is when an individual commits a Murder with a Depraved Mind or Accomplice Felony Murder. Murder with a Depraved Mind is defined as killing without any premeditated design by an act of dangerous behavior with a depraved mind while showing no regard for or interest in protecting human life. First Degree Murder mandates a premeditated intent to kill while Second Degree Murder with a Depraved Mind does not. Accomplice Felony Second Degree Murder is a crime in which an individual is an accomplice to a person who kills another individual while engaged in a felony criminal act like the ones listed above in Felony Murder of the First Degree.

Penalties may vary depending on the circumstances of your individual case. Penalties for Murder in the Second Degree may include some combination of either life in prison, life on probation, or a $10,000 fine. Mandatory prison sentencing for this crime is usually 16¾ years in prison, though a downward departure sentence may change this requirement.

    • Since second-degree murder cases are complex and require different criminal court procedures, only your attorney will be able to help you build competent mitigation strategies and defenses. Possible defenses include self-defense, justifiable homicide, and excusable homicide, though there are other mitigation strategies available for Accomplice Felony Murder charges.

Murder in the third degree

Murder in the Third Degree falls under Florida Statute 782.04(4). This crime occurs when a person accidentally kills another individual when attempting to commit or otherwise committing a non-violent felony. The only large exception to this involves the consumption of unlawful substances, usually drugs, provided to the deceased. In this circumstance, first-degree charges are possible.

Expert criminal defense attorneys your side

Our Fort Lauderdale murder defense attorneys understand the complexities of cases involving homicide. We have decades of experience defending the rights of our clients in cases involving murder, manslaughter, and other very serious offenses in Florida. In cases such as this, the stakes are truly high so retaining a qualified federal criminal defense attorney will greatly impact the outcome of your case.

Serious federal cases only.

Serious federal cases only.

Serious federal cases only.

Serious federal cases only.

Serious federal cases only.

Serious federal cases only.

Serious federal cases only.