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Florida Voluntary Manslaughter Laws

Overview of Florida Voluntary Manslaughter Laws

Florida state laws establish the criminal offense of manslaughter when a homicide, the killing of a human being, does not meet the legal definition of murder. Manslaughter, unlike murder, does not require evidence of the defendant's premeditation or "depraved mind" with disregard for human life; instead, the state requires proof of either voluntary manslaughter or involuntary manslaughter.

Voluntary manslaughter describes a homicide intentionally committed while in the midst of a provocation. The prosecutor must show a sudden, unexpected event or circumstance serving as a provocation. As a result of the provocation, the defendant must have felt a temporary anger, heat of passion, or emotion that immediately resulted in an intent to kill or an intent to commit the act that resulted in the victim's death.

Besides establishing the provocation and the defendant's intent, the prosecutor must also establish the defendant's act as the cause of the victim's death.

Defenses to Voluntary Manslaughter Charges

  • Justifiable use of deadly force to defend against a felony committed against a person or property
  • Excusable homicide committed by accident

Penalties and Sentences

In general, Florida prosecutes manslaughter as a second degree felony, which may result in a term of imprisonment for up to fifteen years, a fine of an amount up to $10,000, or both. If the defendant committed aggravated manslaughter, such as manslaughter of a child or elderly person, state law treats the offense as a first degree felony, which increases the potential term of imprisonment to a maximum of thirty years. Florida laws also allow the state to consider the defendant's criminal history and determine whether the defendant is a career criminal or habitual violent offender; if so, the state may be able to increase the defendant's punishment.

Manslaughter With a Weapon or Firearm

When voluntary manslaughter occurs and the defendant used a weapon or firearm, the charge is no longer considered to be a second degree felony; instead, it is classified as a more serious first degree felony. In this instance, it is up to the jury in the State of Florida to decide if a weapon or firearm had actually been used in the killing.

Florida Voluntary Manslaughter Statute

Florida Statutes Sections 782.02-782.36

Note: If you have been arrested or charged with the crime of voluntary manslaughter in the state of Florida, please contact a Florida criminal defense attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

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