When a homicide in Florida does not meet the legal definition of murder, state law gives prosecutors the option to consider a charge of manslaughter.
At The Ansara Law Firm, our Fort Lauderdale manslaughter defense attorneys recognize that while manslaughter is generally considered less serious than murder, potential consequences are nonetheless severe. Successful challenge of a manslaughter charge requires a legal team with extensive knowledge, experience and resources.
Manslaughter is defined by F.S. 782.07 as the killing of another human being by the act, procurement or culpable negligence of another person without lawful justification.
There are generally three ways manslaughter can be committed: Voluntarily, by Procurement and by Culpable Negligence (or Involuntary).
- Voluntary Manslaughter. This is when a person intentionally commits an act that is neither justified nor excusable and it results in the death of another human being. It is not necessary to show the death itself was intended, but rather the act that resulted in death was intended.
- Manslaughter by Procurement. This is when an individual encourages, persuades or induces another person to commit an act that results in the death of someone else.
- Involuntary Manslaughter (by Culpable Negligence). This is when a person engages in culpably negligent conduct that results in the death of another human being.
Culpable negligence is a legal term that involves violation of the duty each of us possesses to act reasonably toward other people. When that violation occurs without any conscious intention of harm, it’s known as negligence. However, culpable negligence is a bit more egregious. It involves a violation that is both gross and flagrant and displays a showing of reckless disregard for human life or safety or a want of care such that it raises the presumption of conscious indifference.
Essentially, it’s when a defendant acts or fails to act in a way that he or she knows or should reasonably know is going to result in either death or great bodily injury to someone else.Manslaughter Penalties
Typically, manslaughter is a Level 7 offense deemed to be a second-degree felony.
Judges overseeing manslaughter cases are required to impose a minimum sentence of 9 ¼ years behind bars. He or she may additionally impose a sentence that includes:
- Maximum 15 years in prison
- Maximum 15 years of probation
- Maximum $10,000 in fines
Sentencing consequences increase if defendant is convicted of manslaughter with a firearm or other deadly weapon. It may also be increased when:
- A person causes a death of an elderly or disabled person by culpable negligence;
- A person causes the death of anyone under the age of 18 by culpable negligence;
- A person through culpable negligence causes the death of a police officer, firefighter, emergency medical technician or paramedic while those individuals were in the course of performing the duties of employment.
In those cases, which are sometimes referred to as “aggravated manslaughter,” the charge is upped to a first-degree felony, in which case maximum penalties include:
- Up to 30 years in prison
- Up to 30 years of probation
- Up to $10,000 in fines
Having any of these charges reduced or successfully challenged requires a proper defense involving a thorough independent investigation and analysis of existing evidence.Successful Defense in Florida Manslaughter Case
To start, there are numerous pretrial and trial defenses that can be raised in any criminal case.
For example, pretrial defenses will generally include technical barriers to prosecution or the entry of critical evidence. These might include:
- Illegal search and seizure
- Speedy trial violation
- Illegal stop
- Illegal interview or other violation of Constitutional rights
These are typically raised either with motions to suppress or motions to dismiss.
Trial defenses meanwhile are those that either challenge the sufficiency of evidence or serve as an affirmative defense. An affirmative defense is one that doesn’t deny the occurrence of the offense, but rather offers legal justification.
Insufficient evidence simply means prosecutors don’t have enough evidence to prove each element of the charge beyond a reasonable doubt.
An affirmative defense, meanwhile, analyzes elements like:
- Justified homicide
- Excusable homicide
An experienced Fort Lauderdale manslaughter defense attorney can give you a more complete picture of the possible defenses for your case.