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Manslaughter, Murder, & Homicide Defense

Darren D. Shull, P.A. > Manslaughter, Murder, & Homicide Defense

Homicide Charges


The act of purposely, knowingly, recklessly or negligently causing the death of a another human being. Florida law distinguishes between many levels of homicide, all of which can lead to prison time including a life sentence or even a death sentence. Defenses to homicide are varied and must painstakingly researched and presented to the prosecutors, judge or jury.


Manslaughter is generally the lowest charge of homicide. There are different elements of manslaughter: whether by act, procurement, and culpable negligence. Manslaughter by act is when an act that was neither excusable nor justified caused the death of another. Manslaughter by procurement is when you persuade or influence another to commit an act that results in death. Manslaughter by culpable negligence means that you acted negligently and your negligence causes the death of another. The Law Offices of Darren D. Shull P.A. has extensive experience in the defense of manslaughter charges in Jupiter and Palm Beach County.



If manslaughter is committed with a weapon or firearm it rises to manslaughter in the first degree. If convicted of manslaughter a judge must impose a minimum sentence of 10 years in prison and may also impose fines and probation. An example of negligent manslaughter is pointing a gun at someone even though you believed the gun was unloaded; the gun is fired and the person dies from the gunshot.

Vehicular Homicide Charges


Under Florida statutes section 782.071, vehicular homicide is defined as the killing of a person or fetus of a pregnant mother by reckless driving as defined under 316.192. Vehicular manslaughter may be punished as a second or first degree felony.

Third Degree Murder


Third degree murder is when you unintentionally kill someone while attempting to commit, or committing a non-violent felony. This is a second degree felony according to Florida statutes section 782.04. This statute is as follows:



  • Section (4) The unlawful killing of a human being, when perpetrated without any design to effect death, by a person engaged in the perpetration of, or in the attempt to perpetrate, any felony other than any:
  • (a)Trafficking offense prohibited by s. 893.135(1),
  • (b)Arson,
  • (c)Sexual battery,
  • (d)Robbery,
  • (e)Burglary,
  • (f)Kidnapping,
  • (g)Escape,
  • (h)Aggravated child abuse,
  • (i)Aggravated abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult,
  • (j)Aircraft piracy,
  • (k)Unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb,
  • (l)Unlawful distribution of any substance controlled under s. 893.03(1), cocaine as described in s. 893.03(2)(a)4., or opium or any synthetic or natural salt, compound, derivative, or preparation of opium by a person 18 years of age or older, when such drug is proven to be the proximate cause of the death of the user,


  • (m)Carjacking,
  • (n)Home-invasion robbery,
  • (o)Aggravated stalking,
  • (p)Murder of another human being,
  • (q)Resisting an officer with violence to his or her person, or
  • (r)Felony that is an act of terrorism or is in furtherance of an act of terrorism,


is murder in the third degree and constitutes a felony of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.

So basically third degree murder is: person is killed + by an act of another person + without the intent to cause the death + while in the commission of a non-violent felony. For instance, Troy and Lizbeth are out poaching gators (a felony) in Florida. Troy yells excitedly at Lizbeth to shoot but she accidentally shoots Troy in the head killing him. Lizbeth can be charged with third degree murder.

Second Degree Murder


More serious than third degree murder, second degree murder occurs when one kills another without premeditation, but with a state of mind that shows no regard for human life. A perfect example of second degree murder is a woman comes home from a hard day of work to find her ne’er-do-well husband in bed with another woman who she doesn’t know. In a fit of rage she pulls out a gun and shoots her husband and kills him. No premeditation or planning here, but she definitely wants to kill him at that moment and she does. That’s second degree murder. Second degree murder is a first degree felony punishable by life, or a life felony if the homicide is done with a firearm.



First Degree Murder


No other crime is more serious. First, it requires a premeditated plan to kill another person. Premeditation can happen in either a short or long period of planning. The appellate court case law varies on exactly what constitutes premeditation. Also, first degree murder occurs if a person is killed while committing one of the dangerous felonies listed in Florida statutes section 782.04; Or you are a participant in a violent felony such as a robbery or home invasion and someone is killed. The person killed could be your accomplice if the victim uses deadly force against his attackers. This is what’s called felony murder. First degree murder is a capital offense; the sentence for a 1st degree murder conviction is life without parole. Or if killing was elaborately planned or was especially heinous, atrocious or cruel a person convicted could get the death penalty in state or federal court.



Defenses to Homicide/Murder


There are defenses to murder or homicide! Florida has a broad self defense law that permits a person who takes another’s life to be justified in the use of deadly force. Florida is famous for the “stand your ground” law Florida state statute 776.013, titled by the legislature as “home protection; use of deadly force; presumption of fear of death or great bodily harm; If you are attacked, or reasonably believe you or someone around you is being attacked, you may use deadly force to prevent death, great bodily harm, or a forcible felony. You do not have a duty to retreat. Although there are some exceptions, for example, if you are engaged in unlawful activity or you initiated an attack.



If from the evidence it appears that the homicide victim had systematically abused his significant other or child by violent physical and mental abuse and that act of murder was committed in an act of self-defense a judge or jury could find that the defendant committed the homicide in self-defense and find them not guilty. Battered spouse or battered child syndrome (in cases of parenticide) the finder of fact focus on the following findings at trial: the determination of whether the perpetrator (1) had acted with prior calculation and design as charged in the indictment, (2) had acted with purpose as required for the lesser included offense of murder, (3) had created the confrontation or initiated the aggression, and (4) had an honest belief that he was in imminent danger, a necessary element in the affirmative defense of self-defense. For the “Battered” defense to be successful the findings above must be consistent with the finding by a Forensic psychologist or psychiatrist that the person who committed the murder suffered from post traumatic stress from the abuse and the killing took place to prevent further perceived use of deadly force.



Battered spouse is a permissible defense allowed under Florida statutes, rules of criminal procedure 3.201. Battered child syndrome in defense of homicide is rare, however, it can fit within the parameters of battered spouse. Attorney Darren Shull is the first attorney in the State of Florida to introduce the battered child defense in a circuit criminal court in a homicide trial.



Homicide is one of the most complex areas of criminal law. It takes a skilled Palm Beach County homicide defense attorney to explore all your legal defenses. The Law Offices of Darren D. Shull can help provide you with the maximum defense that you are entitled to under the law. To learn more, call our Palm Beach County murder defense lawyers at 561-972-6444. Our offices serve Jupiter, Palm Beach Gardens, North Palm Beach, West Palm Beach and all of Palm Beach County.