Homicide

In Palm Beach County, law enforcement officers reported 100 homicides in 2017. Out of those 100 homicides, 27 occurred in West Palm Beach, 18 occurred in unincorporated Palm Beach County, 12 occurred in Riviera Beach.

In 2017, 12 juveniles were arrested on homicide-related charges. Out of those 100 homicides in Palm Beach County, at least 89 victims were shot, five were stabbed, two were killed by blunt force traumas and the causes were unknown in four cases.

Many defenses in homicide cases involve showing that the killing was excusable or resulted from justifiable use of deadly force.

Attorneys for Homicide in Palm Beach County, FL

The attorneys at Meltzer & Bell, P.A. are experienced represent clients charged with murder and manslaughter cases. We fight a variety of homicide charges including Murder in the First Degree and the lesser crimes of Murder in the Second Degree, Murder in the Third Degree, and Manslaughter.

Our criminal defense attorneys represent clients charged with a range of serious felony chages including homicide cases throughout Fort Lauderdale in Broward County, West Palm Beach in Palm Beach County and Miami in Miami-Dade County, FL.

Call us to find out when a homicide is excusable or justified under Florida law. Call (561) 557-8686.


Important Definitions in Homicide Cases

The term “justifiable homicide” is defined in § 782.02 of the Florida Statutes. The killing of a human being is considered justifiable homicide and lawful if necessarily done while resisting an attempt to murder or commit a felony upon the defendant or to commit a felony in any dwelling house in which the defendant was at the time of the killing.

Under § 782.03, Fla.Stat., the killing of a human being is excusable, and therefore lawful, under any one of the following three circumstances:

  1. When the killing is committed by accident and misfortune in doing any lawful act by lawful means with usual ordinary caution and without any unlawful intent, or
  2. When the killing occurs by accident and misfortune in the heat of passion, upon any sudden and sufficient provocation, or
  3. When the killing is committed by accident and misfortune resulting from a sudden combat, if a dangerous weapon is not used and the killing is not done in a cruel or unusual manner.

Under Florida’s statutes for homicide, the term “dangerous weapon” is defined as “any weapon that, taking into account the manner in which it is used, is likely to produce death or great bodily harm.”

In homicide trials, where manslaughter appears on the verdict form either as a charged or lesser offense is that the jury must be instructed on the definitions of justifiable and excusable homicide. See State v. Lucas, 645 So. 2d 425 (Fla. 1994). 

The instructions must be given because manslaughter is a residual offense that can only be fully defined by exclusion of the properly explained defenses of excusable and justifiable homicide. See id.

The Florida Supreme Court has held:

if the trial court errs in failing to give a proper instruction on a lesser offense, and the lesser offense is more than two steps removed from the offense for which the defendant is convicted, then the error is subject to a harmless error analysis….

the significance of the two-steps-removed requirement is more than merely a matter of number or degree. A jury must be given a fair opportunity to exercise its inherent “pardon” power by returning a verdict of guilty as to the next lower crime.

If the jury is not properly instructed on the next lower crime, then it is impossible to determine whether, having been properly instructed, it would have found the defendant guilty of the next lesser offense.

However, when the trial court fails to properly instruct on a crime two or more degrees removed from the crime for which the defendant is convicted, the error is not per se reversible, but instead is subject to a harmless error analysis….

Pena v. State, 901 So. 2d 781, 787 (Fla. 2005).


Types of Homicide in Florida

Florida law provides for several different types of homicide charges including:

The jury instructions for cases involving transferred intent in homicide cases can be found in Instruction 3.6(o).

In Palm Beach County and Broward County, FL, the crimes for which a defendant may not post bond prior to the first appearance are identified in the administrative order. The offenses include any attempt/solicitation/conspiracy to commit first-degree murder; attempt/solicitation/conspiracy to commit second-degree murder; third-degree murder; vehicular homicide; or DUI manslaughter.

Additionally, a person is not permitted to bond out before the first appearance on any capital felony, any life felony, or any first-degree felony punishable by life in prison.


Degrees of Murder in Florida

In Florida, the crime of murder is the most serious criminal offense. The crime of murder is divided into degrees based on the factual circumstances and the seriousness of the offense. 

Under Florida Statute 782.04(1)(a), first-degree murder is defined as unlawfully killing another person when such killing is:

  • premeditated because the defendant acted with the intent to kill another human being;
  • committed by a person that is committing or attempting to commit a crime listed in Florida Statute Section 782.04(1)(a)(2); or
  • as a result of the unlawful distribution of certain controlled substances by a person that is at least 18-years-old and the drug is the proximate cause of the user’s death.

The crime of first-degree murder is a non-bondable offense. It is punishable by death by lethal injection or life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Under Florida Statute Section 782.04(2), second-degree murder is the unlawfully killing of another human-being by acting in a manner imminently dangerous with a depraved mind. Second-degree murder does not necessarily require an intent to kill. Second-degree murder is a first-degree felony punishable by life.

A third-degree murder, under Florida Statute Section 782.04(4), occurs when a person unlawfully kills another human being while engaged in the commission or attempted commission of a felony other than those listed in Florida Statute Section 782.04(4).


The Number of Homicides in Palm Beach County in 2017

Statistics are kept on the number of homicides that occur each year in Palm Beach County, FL:

  • 2017: 100
  • 2016: 87
  • 2015: 109
  • 2014: 98
  • 2013: 89
  • 2012: 90
  • 2011: 84
  • 2010: 97
  • 2009: 95

This article was last updated on Friday, March 30, 2018.

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