Whatever the circumstances were that led you to be charged with murder in a homicide, you deserve a competent defense team. The criminal defense team at Flaherty & Merrifield is more than competent—we are highly skilled and experienced defense attorneys who will fight to protect your rights for a murder charge.

A prolonged investigation or prosecution can negatively affect your personal and professional reputation, potentially costing you your job, your friends, and your family. If convicted, you could be subject to a lengthy prison sentence or probationary period and, in some cases, the death penalty.

Even if you manage to avoid the death penalty and get out of prison someday, the collateral consequences of a murder conviction can persist long after you've paid your debt to society. With such a serious felony on your record, you're likely to find that your employment and housing opportunities (as well as your eligibility for a number of government assistance programs) are severely limited.

It's important to remember that just because you've been charged with a serious crime, it doesn't mean a conviction is inevitable—far from it.

However, it does mean that you need a knowledgeable, experienced, and courtroom-savvy team of criminal defense attorneys who care about your future and are willing to fight as if your life depends on it because, honestly, it does. That is just what you'll find with our criminal defense team at Flaherty & Merrifield.

Florida Murder Charges and Possible Penalties

Florida law defines murder as the unlawful killing of a human being and describes three distinct degrees of the offense, each with its own potential penalties. Factors that influence the degree of the charge include the defendant's state of mind at the time of the murder and the relevant underlying circumstances of the crime. Florida murder charges include:

  • First-degree murder. The most serious form of the charge, first-degree murder requires the prosecutor to prove that the killing was premeditated, and the defendant planned it in advance. Defendants can face up to life in prison without the possibility of parole and, when circumstances make the crime a capital offense, the death penalty.
  • Second-degree murder. Lacking the premeditation element of first-degree murder, a second-degree murder charge is a first-degree felony that indicates that the defendant acted with a depraved mind and without regard for human life. Upon conviction, the crime is punishable by up to life in prison without parole (or life on probation), and a $10,000 fine.
  • Third-degree murder. Third-degree murder charges are brought when a defendant unintentionally kills someone during the commission (or attempted commission) of a felony offense. A third-degree murder conviction can carry penalties of up to 15 years in prison (or on probation) and an up to $10,000 fine.

What Is Manslaughter?

Manslaughter charges indicate that the crime lacked the malice aforethought necessary to bring a murder charge for a homicide. However, defendants still face harsh penalties if convicted, such as between 9.25 and 15 years in prison, 15 years of probation, fines of up to $10,000, and other consequences. Additionally, manslaughter charges can be upgraded to first-degree felonies where aggravating circumstances are a factor, which can substantially increase the length of the potential prison sentence.

Potential Defenses to Murder Charges in Florida

While your prospects might seem bleak when you have been charged with murder, you're not without options. There are a number of defenses our team will consider to poke holes in the prosecution's case, such as:

  • You have an alibi
  • You acted in self-defense
  • You were acting in defense of others
  • Your actions were excusable, as they were committed by accident and misfortune, in the heat of passion, or as a result of sudden combat
  • Your actions were justifiable, as you were resisting another person's attempt to murder you or commit a felony against you
  • You lacked the state of mind necessary to justify a murder charge
  • The prosecution lacks sufficient evidence to support a conviction
  • The evidence against you was illegally obtained
  • Many more

At the Center of a Murder Investigation? You Need a Florida Criminal Defense Attorney ASAP

Don't let a murder charge threaten to destroy your life. Reach out to a reputable defense firm as soon as possible and never underestimate the value of pretrial representation. In fact, the sooner you hire an attorney, the better. This gives your counsel the opportunity to approach the prosecutor with your side of the story, seek to have your charges reduced or dismissed, and even represent you at your initial appearance—all of which can help your case get off to a great start.

Have You Been Arrested For a Murder Charge in Florida?

If you've been arrested for murder in Florida, you need to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Fort Walton Beach office directly at 850.243.6097 to schedule your free consultation.