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What Is The Difference Between First Degree And Second Degree Murder

What Is The Difference Between First Degree And Second Degree Murder

Posted By Parks & Braxton, PA || 13-Feb-2015

In legal terms, homicide, or the act of one human being killing another, branches into the category of murder. According to Florida Statute, 782.04, murder is defined as a killing that was not legally sanctioned and that the killer was motivated to commit the act out of harboring some ill will toward the victim. This is called "malice aforethought." There are two types of murder that someone could possibly be charged with: first degree and second degree. First, it is important to understand how crimes are processed and then subsequently charged.


When a person is arrested, the police fill out a report which is then given to prosecution to look over the details of the arrest, reasons why the officer had cause to arrest the individual, and decide if charges are warranted. By law, to charge someone with murder, the two aforementioned factors must be present, the sources of evidence can corroborate the charge, and that the crime was possible based on these beyond a reasonable doubt.

If it is suspected that other crimes would be committed, the prosecution can also decide that other charges need to be made. On the other hand, if these elements do not exist, then the case may be dropped at the onset and there would be no need for litigation. The factors will vary case by case.


To put it in the simplest way, second degree murder is considered the less severe of the two types. The killing was carried out in a way that intended to cause serious harm to the other individual, but was not necessarily premeditated or planned beforehand. Here is an example: two people get into a heated scuffle at a party. One decides to retaliate harsh and batter the other person, who ends up with substantial injuries that lead to his death later that night.

Second degree murder charges can sometimes be difficult for prosecutors to argue. It involves knowing the individual's state of mind at the time of the killing. Did that person decide in that moment, with all of the intent and ill will, to kill? Second degree murder can also be charged if the killing was carried out in conjunction with another felony, such as arson, rape, or theft, and it could be foreseen that a person's death could result from those actions.


First degree murder charges is an intentional and premeditated killing. An example would be someone who waits for another person to come home and kills that person. The prosecution has the burden of proving that the act was planned, deliberate, and that the killer had enough time to think through the action.


Penalties will vary for each set of circumstances, depending on whether or not the case was a first degree or second degree charge. They will also depend on whether or not another crime was committed together with the murder.

These are the current minimum Florida penalties for murder:

  • First degree: 30 years up to life imprisonment, fines up to $10, 000
  • Second degree: 15 years up to life imprisonment, and fines up to $10, 000

Other penalties impact a person's reputation and future prospects. It can be difficult to maintain employment, apply for a home or auto loan, and many liberties can be taken away. If you are facing the possibility of murder charges, it is imperative that you reach out to a Miami criminal defense lawyer right away to look into your case.

As a team of former prosecutors, we know exactly what it takes to win. Parks & Braxton, P.A. has been able to dismiss thousands of cases for clients. We are a top-rated Miami criminal defense firm and we can help you defend you from your charges.

Call us today and speak to us during your free, confidential consultation!

Categories: Criminal Defense, Murder