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.
- Example: The discovery of a spouse's adultery is a commonly recognized provocation that may serve as the basis for a manslaughter charge. However, if a period of time lapses between the discovery and the homicide, the state might be able to establish premeditation or a depraved mind sufficient to charge the defendant with murder instead of manslaughter.
- Example: A verbal insult or verbal abuse might not qualify as provocation to reduce a charge from murder to manslaughter, because the verbal insult might not sufficiently inflame the defendant to a heat of passion as defined by law.
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.
Florida Voluntary Manslaughter Statute
Florida Statutes Sections 782.02-782.36
Note: State laws are constantly changing -- please contact an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.