Second degree murder cases often involve a death that allegedly occurred because of a heat of passion or act that was so dangerous is warrants a criminal action be brought against the Defendant. The classic example is the spouse who finds their partner having an affair with another person and immediately acts to kill either the partner or the partner's lover. In order to convict a defendant in Florida of Second-degree murder, the State of Florida must prove the following three elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The victim is dead;
- The death was caused by the criminal act of the defendant;
- There was an unlawful killing of the victim by an act imminently dangerous to another and demonstrating a depraved mind without regard for human life.
Understanding a second degree murder can be more confusing than the more serious first degree murder. The "criminal act" reference in the statute must be a single event or series of related actions arising from and performed pursuant to a single design or purpose of committing the murder or creating the dangerous condition that led to the death. Although second-degree murder can carry a potential incarceration of up to life in prison, the death penalty cannot be imposed on a person found guilty of second-degree murder.
Whether a Defendant's actions could have been reasonably foreseen as endangering a human life to the point of warranting a prosecution is a question for the jury and where a skilled defense lawyer can be most helpful. Examples may include the negligent supervision of a child or of the elderly by an adult, or other reckless behavior that led to the death of another person.
Unlike in a first degree or felony murder prosecution, a grand jury does not need to indict the defendant before a prosecution may begin. Second degree murders often are decided on the "common sense" of the jury. Whether a person's actions amount to the requisite intent or recklessness to warrant conviction is often left up to the jury's determination.
The defense of a second degree murder often comes from a defense's argument that the death was justified, excusable, or was self-defense. A Board Certified Criminal Trial Lawyer can help defend in your Florida Second Degree Murder charge. Each case is unique so contact us as soon as possible to discuss the charges.