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Murder is a serious crime with serious implications. If you have been charged, it is essential that you retain qualified and experienced legal counsel immediately. Ohle & Ohle can assist you from the earliest stages of your case and help you get the customized and attentive assistance to ensure that your rights are protected. Don’t wait – call our Fort Pierce homicide lawyers today to learn how we can help you through these difficult times.

Definitions: Homicide vs. Murder

A homicide occurs when one individual causes the death of another. This does not mean that the cause was intentional, however. In fact, homicide is not always illegal. In some cases, death has been caused accidentally or within the parameters of the law. For this reason, it is important to understand certain implications associated with homicide cases in Fort Pierce, Florida and how they can change the way that your case might be handled.

Understanding related charges and what they constitute

While ‘murder’ and ‘homicide’ are terms that may be used interchangeably, they do not actually constitute the same criminal acts or charges. Homicide is defined as an act in which one human being kills another human being. It is not always a crime in Florida under certain circumstances.

Florida divides the illegal killing another human being into three main categories: Murder, Manslaughter, and Vehicular Homicide. Each of these categories is then divided into subcategories and further divided by acts and degrees. The circumstances surrounding your individual case will usually have the greatest impact on the degree of criminal prosecution you will face in court. The presence of malicious intent is another huge factor that can impact the charges raised against you as well as any possible convictions. Below, we will briefly summarize the most common homicide-related charges in Florida. Keep in mind that only your murder defense lawyer in Fort Pierce will be able to accurately assess your situation and help you determine what potential penalties may stem from convictions. Your local defense attorney will also be able to help you build a viable defense for your case or create mitigation strategies that will apply to your individual legal situation.


How are degrees of murder determined?

Murder is the malicious killing of another individual. it is divided into three main categories. These are First Degree, Second Degree and Third Degree.

Murder in the First Degree

  • Statute: Florida Statute 782.04(1)(a)
  • Definition: When a person either commits a Felony Murder or a Premeditated Murder
  • Crimes: Premeditated Murder, Felony Murder
  • Penalties: Potential Death Penalty
  • Possible Defenses: Excusable Homicide, Justifiable Homicide, Self Defense

Murder in the Second Degree

  • Statute: Florida Statute 782.04(2)-(3)
  • Definition: Either a Murder with a Depraved Mind or as an Accomplice Felony Murder
  • Crimes: Murder with a Depraved Mind, Accomplice Felony Murder
  • Penalties: 10-20-Life Mandatory Prison Sentence, a minimum of 16¾ years in prison
  • Possible Defenses: Excusable Homicide, Justifiable Homicide, Self Defense

Murder in the Third Degree

  • Statute: Florida Statute 782.04(4)
  • Definition: Unintentional killing of an individual in association with a non-violent felony offense
  • Crimes: Killing while committing a non-violent felony by accident, unless controlled substances are the direct cause of death
  • Penalties: A minimum sentence of 10⅓ years in prison, a maximum of fifteen (15) years in prison
  • Possible Defenses: Excusable Homicide, Justifiable Homicide, Self Defense


Manslaughter is defined as a crime that may be committed in three ways and may be classified as a Felony Murder if a firearm was the proven cause of the death of another individual. Manslaughter is a Second Degree Felony offense in the state of Florida. It is punishable by up to fifteen years in prison, fifteen years of probation, and a $10,000 fine. Manslaughter usually occurs when there is an absence of malicious intent and crimes have been committed by accident or negligence and aren’t clearly premeditated.

Types of manslaughter

  • Manslaughter by Act (Voluntary Manslaughter): An intentional and inexcusable act that results in the death of another person
  • Manslaughter by Procurement (Voluntary Manslaughter): Persuading another person to commit an act that results in the death of a third-party
  • Manslaughter by Culpable Negligence (Involuntary Manslaughter): A Culpably Negligent act that resulted in someone else’s death
  • Manslaughter with a Weapon or Firearm: Any act of manslaughter where the cause of death has been determined to be caused by a firearm

Vehicular homicide

This is different than negligent driving and involves driving or operating a motor vehicle in a reckless manner that is likely to cause other individuals great bodily harm or injury. Prosecuted under Florida Statute 782.071, it is punishable by up to fifteen years in prison, fifteen years of probation, and a $10,000 fine.

While many people choose to allow the state to assign them a public defender, this is not always the best way to protect your rights, especially in cases concerning potential murder convictions. In St. Lucie County, public defenders are often overwhelmed by heavy caseloads. This can make it difficult for them to give your individual case the care and attentiveness that it demands. For that reason, hiring a private Fort Pierce homicide attorney from a qualified law firm like Ohle & Ohle may be a far better option. We have the time and resources available to give all of our clients the specialized services that they require for better case outcomes.

Homicide FAQs
“Michael Ohle is a wonderful attorney. He has compassion and passion for his work. He has the backbone to go toe-to-toe to defend you. He will not disappoint! DO NOT hesitate to hire his services!!!”
~ Randy Vidal Jr., Google Reviewer
Homicide occurs when one person takes the life of another. It could be justified if done to prevent a serious crime or in self-defense. Murder occurs when one person kills another (or others) in an unlawful or premeditated manner.
A murder charge could be tried as a capital offense in Florida, meaning a death sentence is a real possibility if you’re convicted. Capital cases usually involve the killing of police, firefighters or children. Killing someone while committing another violent crime (like rape and assault) also could be tried as a death penalty case. Other qualifications include murder for hire and terrorism.
It all comes down to intent in Florida. If someone kills another person unintentionally, the charge typically is manslaughter. If the killing is intentional, it’ll likely be murder.
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