The right to life is a fundamental right deeply embedded in the United States constitution. As such, the enactment of the law on homicide seeks to prevent the deliberate and unlawful killing of one person by another.
However, not all homicides are unlawful. Surprisingly, many jurisdictions, including Florida, have laws that address a specific type of homicide known as justifiable homicide. This is to the effect that a defendant can’t be convicted for killing a person if the law permitted the defendant to act the way they did under those circumstances. In other words, their action is justified under the law.
This article briefly elucidates what you need to know about justifiable homicide in Florida and how a criminal defense attorney at the Meltzer & Bell law firm can help you.
Understanding Justifiable Homicide in Florida
Put simply, justifiable homicides are killings that are commanded or authorized by law. For example, the killing of an enemy soldier in combat by another soldier is a homicide. However, it is justifiable homicide because the soldier is permitted or authorized by law to kill under the circumstances of combat.
In Florida, justifiable homicide is deeply embedded under the stand-your-ground law. Under the stand-your-ground law, a person who is in a dwelling, residence, or vehicle in which they have a right to be in has a right to stand their ground and use or threaten to use deadly force if they reasonably believe that using or threatening to use such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm.
In simpler terms, Florida’s stand-your-ground law requires an individual to use or threaten to use deadly force in circumstances where they reasonably believe they are in danger. Although this law is controversial, it has been used by gun owners to avoid conviction in cases where they are charged with homicide.
Justifiable Homicide V Excusable Homicide: What’s the Difference?
Justifiable Homicide and excusable homicide are terms that are often used interchangeably. However, they are distinct in many ways.
In the context of justifiable homicide, the killing of one human being by another person is authorized and commanded by law. With excusable homicide, it involves killings of human beings which are not deserving of punishment. In other words, excusable homicides are killings that result from accidents or are done by persons who lack the capacity to commit crimes, such as children.
In Florida, excusable homicide is provided under Florida statute 782.03. The statute establishes three situations that could be classified as excusable homicides, which include:
- The defendant killed the deceased in the heat of passion after being provoked by the victim.
- The defendant killed the deceased accidentally during a lawful act without any unlawful intent.
- The defendant killed someone during a sudden fight without a weapon.
- The similarity between justifiable homicide and excusable homicide is that in both scenarios, the defendant did not intend to kill the victim.
Having said that, if you are charged with homicide in Florida, you can seek help from a competent and qualified criminal defense lawyer who can help you understand whether your case falls under the limb of justifiable homicide or excusable homicide.
What are the Exceptions to Florida’s Justifiable Homicide law?
The stand-your-ground law is the basis of Florida’s justifiable homicide law. Although the stand-your defense can help the defendant avoid conviction on a homicide charge, it is imperative to note that the defense isn’t applicable in all scenarios. In other words, there are certain exceptions where the defendant won’t be shielded from legal liability.
Some of the specific exceptions to the stand your ground law include:
- The defendant uses deadly force against a law enforcement officer performing official duties. Therefore, it would not be classified as justifiable homicide if the defendant kills a law enforcement officer chasing a suspect or serving a warrant.
- The defendant uses deadly force to kill a person when engaging in some form of criminal activity.
- The defendant killed someone who didn’t pose an imminent danger to the defendant.
- The defendant was not provoked but proceeded to use deadly force that led to the death of the deceased.
How can a Homicide Attorney Help?
If you or your loved one is facing homicide or any other related charge in Florida, it is imperative to seek legal counsel immediately. A competent and qualified criminal defense attorney can help you navigate the substantive and procedural laws and, at the same time, will work hard to safeguard your rights and interests throughout the criminal proceedings.
Stated simply, your criminal defense attorney at the Meltzer & Bell law firm will:
- Evaluate your case: If you are charged with a crime, it is imperative that you understand the nature of the charges and the legal options available. As such, hiring a criminal defense attorney from the onset will ensure that you understand what’s at stake, the available options, and your rights in the criminal proceedings.
- Provide a breakdown of the applicable law: An attorney will help you understand the law applicable in your case. This is important primarily because it enables you to understand the core elements that the prosecution ought to establish beyond reasonable doubt in order to sustain the charge.
- Evaluate the strength or weakness of the prosecution’s evidence: Your attorney will help analyze the strength and weaknesses of any evidence tabled against you in court. More importantly, your attorney will work hard to ensure they build a robust strategy that will help impeach the credibility of the evidence.
- Represent you throughout the criminal proceedings: Your attorney will ensure that you receive effective legal counsel throughout the trial. More importantly, they will discuss with you about possible plea deals depending on the nature of the charges.
Contact a Skilled Criminal Defense Attorney in Florida
If you or your loved one is facing homicide charges in Florida, it is imperative to act immediately to safeguard your rights and liberty. The criminal defense attorneys at the Meltzer & Bell law firm have experience handling homicide cases in Florida and the surrounding jurisdictions. As such, we understand what it takes to succeed in a homicide charge.
Contact us today for a free case evaluation.