Murder is a serious crime no matter the location, but the severity of the charge can vary based on the circumstances of the killing and where in the United States you are being tried. Different states may have different definitions for first-degree murder, second-degree murder, and manslaughter.
Florida is one of three states that divides it even further: the statutes include an additional degree of murder, which shares some potentially confusing similarities with the law for accidental murder. It is imperative that Florida citizens be aware of where these definitions diverge, so here is the difference between third-degree murder and manslaughter.
The Different Degrees of Murder in Florida
To understand how Florida defines third-degree murder, you must first understand how Florida defines murder. Take a look at the list of felonies below:
- Certain traffic offenses
- Sexual battery
- Aggravated child abuse
- Aggravated abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult
- Aircraft piracy
- Unlawful throwing, placing or discharging of a destructive device or bomb
- Home-invasion robbery,
- Aggravated Stalking
- Murder of another human being
- Violently resisting an officer
- Aggravated fleeing or eluding with serious bodily injury or death
- Acts of terrorism
- Human trafficking
- Unlawful distribution of certain controlled substances if they are proven to be the proximate cause of the death of the user
These 20 crimes, quoted from Florida Statutes 782.04, can result in severe legal consequences on their own. If someone kills another person “in the perpetration, or in the attempt to perpetrate” any of these crimes, however, they may be found guilty of murder in the first degree.
So Then What is Third-Degree Murder?
Third-degree murder has two key aspects that distinguish it from other types of murder. The list of 20 crimes previously mentioned is critical for understanding one such aspect. You may also receive a conviction for a felony if you kill someone while committing or attempting to commit a crime that is not included on the above list of crimes.
The second key aspect is that the killing must have occurred “without any design to effect death.” In short, it must be accidental and not pre-meditated. Of course, this is different from one of the definitions of second-degree murder, which involves a similarly unplanned killing, but is “perpetrated by any act imminently dangerous to another and evincing a depraved mind regardless of human life.”
How Does This Differ from Manslaughter?
Florida law Statutes 782.07 defines manslaughter as “the killing of a human being by the act, procurement, or culpable negligence of another, without lawful justification … and in cases in which such killing shall not be excusable homicide or murder.” This definition is similar to third-degree murder in that both involve the killing of another human being by accident. This may be why both crimes are considered second-degree felonies.
Florida law, however, seems to see a need to make a distinction between third-degree murder and manslaughter. Manslaughter often occurs when people make mistakes that prove costly – for example, a driver failing to stop or swerving as someone fails to notice, or avoid them while crossing the street. On the other hand, some people do not accidentally kill others just by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sometimes, people are killed simply because someone else was doing something that they had no right to do under the law. This death could have been avoided if the killer had remained a law-abiding citizen.
Because manslaughter and third-degree murder are both on the same felony level, the penalties may be the same either way. However, this crucial difference will show in the convicted felon’s criminal record. Moreover, third-degree murder is added on top of whichever crimes the defendant was perpetrating or trying to perpetrate at the time, so people accused of this may still have more legal trouble than people charged with manslaughter.
If you or a loved one are dealing with any matters related to charges of third-degree murder or manslaughter, you should contact an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney immediately. The professionals at Michael A. Gottlieb, P.A. Broward Criminal Lawyers are ready and willing to provide any legal assistance you may need. Call us today for a free consultation at (954) 462-1005.
Note: it should be mentioned that manslaughter involving the death of certain kinds of people (elderly adults, disabled persons, children, officers, firefighters, and specific emergency medical professionals) through culpable negligence would be considered a first-degree felony.