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Crimes of Violence

Violent Crimes

Violent crimes are defined as intentional, aggressive acts against a person or property that threaten, inflict, or attempt to inflict physical harm. Under Florida criminal laws, a violent crime can be charged as a felony, and a convicted violent criminal could face years in prison. In addition to imprisonment, the offender faces lost rights and a permanent criminal record that can affect education, housing, and employment.

Types of Violent Crimes

The definition of a violent crime is broad, so it encompasses multiple categories of offenses including the following: homicide, robbery, assault, battery, kidnapping, child abuse, and conspiracy to commit a violent crime.

Homicide

Homicide is the unlawful killing of a human being. This includes first-degree murder, second- degree murder, and three forms of manslaughter. The three forms of manslaughter are by act, by procurement, and by culpable negligence.

F.S. 782.04 defines murder as the premeditated and illegal act of killing another human being. The statute establishes what’s commonly referred to as the felony murder rule. This means that you may be charged with murder if an individual dies during the commission of a felony. The felonies that support a charge of first-degree felony murder under the statute are as follows:

  • Drug trafficking
  • Arson
  • Sexual battery
  • Robber, home invasion robbery, or burglary
  • Kidnapping
  • Aggravated abuse of a child, elderly person, or disabled adult
  • Aircraft piracy
  • Unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb
  • Carjacking
  • Aggravated stalking
  • Murder
  • Resisting an officer with violence to his or her person
  • Felonious acts of terrorism or in furtherance of an act of terrorism
  • Distribution of some controlled substances, such as cocaine and opium

F.S. 782.04 also punishes as second-degree murder the killing of another human being during the commission of a felony that is imminently dangerous to human life. If the defendant was involved in the commission of one of the predicate felonies listed above, but the homicide was perpetrated by another co-felon, the defendant can still be charged with second-degree murder.

Florida recognizes the offense of attempted felony murder, too, in F.S. Section 782.051. The offense punishes those who act in a way that could kill another person during the commission of one of the predicate felonies.

If an offender causes the death of another but the court determines that murder was not the original intent of the crime, the offender can be convicted of third-degree murder, which is a second-degree felony. This is punishable by a 15-year prison sentence and/or a fine up to $10,000.

Under F.S. 782.08, an individual who attempts to help someone commit suicide, this is viewed as assisting with self-murder and can be charged with manslaughter. Manslaughter is a second- degree felony punishable by a 15-year prison sentence and/or a fine up to $10,000.

Vehicular homicide is covered by F.S. 782.071. The statute defines vehicular homicide as the act of using a vehicle (e.g., car, truck) to kill another human being and/or an unborn child. Under this code, a culprit may be punished in one of two ways, depending on the circumstances and facts surrounding the crime.F.S. 782.071(a) provides that vehicular homicide is charged as a second-degree felony punishable by a fifteen-year prison sentence and/or a fine up to $10,000.

F.S. 782.071(b) provides that, if the culprit was fully aware that the crash had taken place and made no attempts to help the victims, he or she will be charged with a first-degree felony, punishable by a 30-year prison sentence and/or a fine of $10,000 to $15,000.

Robbery

F.S. 812.13(1) defines robbery as including the use of force, violence, assault, or evoking fear while taking money or another’s property with the intent of permanently or temporarily keeping the property from its lawful owner. It can be charged in several ways. Under F.S.812.13(2)(a), if the offender was armed with a firearm or other deadly weapon during the time of the robbery, he or she will be charged with a first-degree felony, punishable by a 30-year prison sentence and/or a fine of $10,000 to $15,000. Under F.S. 812.13(2)(b), if the offender was armed with a weapon during the time the crime took place, he or she will be charged with a first-degree felony, punishable by a 30-year prison sentence and/or a fine of $10,000- $15,000. Under F.S. 812.13(2)(c), if the offender did not carry a firearm or other type of weapon during the robbery, he or she will be charged with a second-degree felony, punishable by a 15- year prison sentence and/or a fine of up to $10,000.

Assault

Section 784.011 of the Florida Statutes defines assault as the intentional and illegal threat of violence or act of violence on a victim (or victims), with the physical ability to carry out this threat and the effect of stirring a deep-rooted fear in the potential victim that he or she will be violently attacked. In short, it is the unlawful and intentional threat of inflicting violence on another person with the apparent ability to inflict such harm. Any person who intentionally and maliciously attacks another person in this manner will be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor, which is punishable by a 60-day prison sentence and/or a fine up to $500.

Additionally, aggravated assault includes the use of a deadly weapon or the intent to commit a felony. This is charged as a third-degree felony, punishable by a five-year prison sentence and/or a fine up to $5,000.

Battery

F.S. 784.03 describes battery as the intentional and malicious touching or striking of another person against their will or the intentional causing of bodily harm, which results in bodily injuries. Any person who is charged with a battery offense faces a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by a one-year prison sentence and a fine up to $1000. Anyone who was previously charged with a battery and commits a subsequent act of battery will be charged with a third- degree felony, punishable by a 5-year prison sentence and/or a fine up to $5000.

F.S. 784.041 defines a felony battery as a battery that takes place when a person intentionally and maliciously touches or strikes a victim, resulting in the infliction of permanent bodily damage, disfigurement, or disability. In this case, the offender will be charged with a third- degree felony, punishable by a five-year prison sentence and/or a fine up to $5000.

F.S. 784.045 pertains to aggravated battery. This crime occurs when an offender committing a battery intentionally inflicts physical damage on a person and uses a deadly weapon in the process. Aggravated battery can also include situations in which the offender knew or should have known that a female victim was pregnant, resulting in a second victim in the eyes of state law. Aggravated battery offenders will be charged with a second-degree felony, punishable by 15 years in prison and/or a fine up to $10,000.

Kidnapping

Kidnapping is forcibly, secretly, or by threat abducting, imprisoning, or confining another against his or her will and without the legal authority to do so. F.S. 787.01 also provides that kidnapping occurs when the offender has the intention to hold the victim for ransom or use him/her as a hostage for bargaining, commit a felony of any variety, physically harm and/or terrify the victims, or disrupt the function of government. Kidnapping a victim for any of these purposes will result in a charge of a first-degree felony, punishable by a 30-year prison sentence and/or a fine less than $10,000 to $15,000.

Where kidnapping involves a child victim under the age of 13, F.S. 787.01 provides that the offender may be charged with the following: aggravated abuse of a child, sexual battery of a child, lewd and/or lascivious battery, molestation, conduct, and/or exhibition, child prostitution, exploitation of a child, or human trafficking. This is punishable by a life felony and/or a fine up to $15,000.

Child Abuse

F.S. 827.03 defines child abuse as the act of battering, torturing, maliciously punishing, caging, and/or intentionally harming a juvenile, which ultimately results in physical and/or mental injury of the child. Child abuse includes child neglect and any actions or failure to act as a guardian that results in the injury or trauma of a child. The crime also includes the act of urging someone else to commit these acts on a child victim.

Anyone who commits child abuse may be charged in one of several ways, depending on the severity of the offense. Aggravated child abuse will be charged as a first-degree felony, punishable by a 30-year prison sentence and/or a fine of $10,000 to $15,000. When people willingly and maliciously neglect a child causing injury, they may be charged with child neglect, which is a second-degree felony, punishable by a 15-year prison sentence and/or a fine that does not exceed $10,000. Child neglect with no injury is a third-degree felony, punishable by a 5-year prison sentence and/or a fine up to $5,000. Abusing a child applies when an offender willingly abuses a child but does not inflict bodily harm on the victim. This is a third-degree felony, punishable by a 5-year prison sentence and/or a fine that does not exceed $5,000.

Conspiracy to Commit a Violent Crime

Conspiracy to commit violent crimes involves the planning of an illegal violent crime, regardless of whether the act ever actually occurs. F.S. 777.04(3) dictates that any person who agrees to commit a violent crime with another person will be charged with conspiracy to commit this offense. If the crime is a low-ranking conspiracy, the offender will be charged with a first- degree misdemeanor. This results in a one-year prison sentence and/or a fine of up to $1,000. If the crime is a capital felony, on the other hand, the offender will be charged with a first-degree felony. This is punishable by a 30-year prison sentence and/or a fine that does not exceed $10,000 to $15,000.

Defenses to Violent Crimes

Hiring an attorney can help you identify defenses that apply to your violent crimes charge to either reduce your charges or result in a complete dismissal of the case. The following are a brief explanation of the defenses that may be available to you.

Defense of Others

In Florida, it is permissible to use non-deadly force to protect a third person from an attack by another person if the force is deemed to have been reasonably necessary. Deadly force may be used if the attack would likely have resulted in death or serious bodily injury to the third party.

Stand Your Ground Defense

Deadly force may be used to protect one’s home, residence, or occupied vehicle against an intruder. Force may also be used if an individual reasonably believes their property is about to be damaged by another person. This defense, often referred to as the “Stand Your Ground” defense, is covered in F.S. 776.013.

The Stand Your Ground law sets guidelines for when and how a person can defend against threats. F.S. 776.013 establishes the defense of justifiable homicide by not requiring people in Florida to try to run away first if they feel threatened. There are, however, some limitations defined under the law. For example, it doesn’t apply if the person defending himself is engaging in some form of criminal activity at the time. The law also doesn’t apply to provide a defense if the person used deadly force against a law enforcement officer who was “acting in the performance of his or her official duties.” Further, if the person using deadly force intentionally provoked the other party, or if the other party attempted to withdraw from the confrontation first, the use of force is no longer justified under the Stand Your Ground law. Lastly, the defense only applies if the person who uses force in self-defense is in a place where they are legally allowed to be; someone threatened while trespassing or breaking into someone’s home isn’t permitted to claim self-defense on the basis of the Stand Your Ground law.

The Stand Your Ground defense is not available in all states. In most states, an individual has a “duty to retreat,” meaning they must make a reasonable attempt to escape from a situation before resorting to using deadly force. Under what’s known as the “Castle Doctrine” in other states, it is only legal to use deadly force in self-defense if you’ve attempted other avenues of escape or de-escalation unless you’re in your own home at the time of the altercation or threat. It is important to note that the Stand Your Ground law has faced controversy since it was enacted, but particularly following the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida. Each year since his death, the legislature has voted on whether to repeal the law; it’s future as a defense is uncertain, but it is currently available to those who kill another in self-defense or defense of property as justifiable use of force.

Justification

The justification defense applies when a criminal offense is committed, but it is not deemed to be criminal under the circumstances because the conduct was either authorized by law or necessary in an emergency in order to prevent public or private injury.

Lack of Intent

Intent is often a required element to prove an individual committed a violent crime. In these cases, if you do not have the required intent to commit the crime, you may be able to use lack of intent as your defense to the criminal charges you are facing.

Self-Defense

As with the Stand Your Ground law, deadly force is defensible if it was used to protect oneself from an attack by another, as long as the individual reasonably believed the other person’s conduct was going to result in death or serious bodily injury. Non-deadly force can also be used to protect from an attack.

Penalties for Violent Crimes

Penalties for violent crimes vary depending on the crime and the victim. First-degree murder is a capital felony due to its severity. This means it is subject to life in prison or the death penalty. If a person commits a predicate felony and directly contributes to the death of the victim, under the felony murder statute, the offender will be charged with murder in the first-degree. If a person commits a predicate felony but did not directly contribute to the death of the victim, the person will be charged with second-degree murder, which is a first-degree felony and potentially subject to life in prison. Any act of murder will be charged as a federal crime and processed to a higher court.

In order to prove the penalties are appropriate, the prosecution typically presents expert and witness testimony, as well as any evidence that proves the guilt of the defendant. The consequences of being found guilty of a violent crime are serious and can go beyond a prison sentence. If you have been charged with a violent crime, it is in your best interest to hire an experienced defense attorney to explain and defend against the charges.


Mr. Eisenberg is one of only a handful of criminal defense attorneys in all of Sarasota County who has been recognized by the Florida Bar as a Board Certified Criminal Trial Expert.



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