The Florida Statutes recommend harsh penalties for anyone convicted of taking another person’s life, even if the killing was entirely unintentional.

Florida’s Third Degree of Murder

Judge's Gavel With Murder Text on the BottomAlmost everyone is familiar with the terms “first- and second-degree murder.” However, Florida statutes provide for a third category of homicide.

Under Florida Statute 782.04(4), a person is guilty of murder in the third degree if they unintentionally kill another person while committing or attempting to commit a non-violent felony.

The Elements of a Third-Degree Murder Charge

If you, or a loved one, have been accused or indicted on a count of murder in the third degree, the prosecution must demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that:

  • The victim of the alleged non-violent criminal act is dead.
  • The victim was killed during the commission of a non-violent crime or as a consequence of a non-violent crime. You could still be charged with third-degree murder even if the alleged victim died during or after law enforcement claims you fled the area.
  • The alleged non-violent criminal act was not one of several specified felony offenses, including arson, robbery, or burglary.

Unlike first- and second-degree murder, the prosecutor does not have to prove that the killing was premeditated or occurred “with [a] design to effect death.”

In other words, you could be charged with and convicted of third-degree murder for simply making a tragic mistake—even if you never meant to hurt anyone.

The Penalties for Third-Degree Murder

The Florida Statutes defines murder in the third degree as a “felony of the second degree,” punishable by up to:

  • 15 years in prison
  • 15 years of probation
  • A $10,000 fine

Since Florida considers third-degree murder a very serious crime, it also carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 and one-third years in prison.

If You’ve Been Charged With Murder, You Need an Attorney

Even though murder in the third degree may not carry the same potential life sentence as first- or second-degree homicide, a conviction could see you spend decades behind bars and under court supervision. Unfortunately, even if you never intend to re-offend, the stigma of a felony record could make it impossible for you to find gainful employment, obtain an education, and restore your reputation.

If you, or a loved one, are under investigation for or charged with third-degree murder, you deserve an aggressive, experienced attorney who will pursue every available legal option to safeguard your freedom and protect your constitutional rights. Please contact Flaherty & Merrifield Criminal Defense by using our online contact form or call us at 1-850-243-6097 to schedule your free, and 100% confidential consultation as soon as possible.

Contact an Okaloosa County Murder Defense Attorney

If you or a loved one have been charged with murder in Okaloosa County, call Flaherty & Merrifield today at (850) 243-6097 for a free consultation.


Brandy Merrifield
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Florida Criminal Defense Attorney
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