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Is First-Degree Murder a Capital Offense?

By Hager & Schwartz, P.A.

June 2, 2022

What is First-Degree Murder?

First-degree murder occurs when an individual commits a premeditated, or pre-planned murder. This is different than second-degree murder, which is classified as a ‘crime of passion’ or a murder that occurs due to strong negative emotion but was not planned ahead of time. For example, someone walking in on their partner being unfaithful, losing control, and impulsively committing murder as a result.

Increasing First-Degree Murder to a Capital Offense

Technically, all first-degree murders are capital offenses. First-degree murder may be punishable by life in prison or a death sentence. For first-degree murder to become a death penalty case, it must be especially heinous.

This could be the case if:

  • The murder involved torture or abuse
  • The murder victim is a child
  • The murder victim is a police officer, firefighter, or another government employee
  • The murder was committed in correlation to another criminal activity
  • The murder was committed in relation to a murder-for-hire plot

Who Decides If It Is a Capital or First-Degree Murder?

The prosecutors will decide if they want to pursue the case as a capital murder case. If they decide that there is enough evidence to try and get the death penalty for the defendant, the case will move on in two phases.

First, the trial to prove whether or not the defendant is guilty of committing murder. If the jury finds the defendant guilty, the case will move on. Then, the prosecutors and defense attorneys will provide arguments for why the defendant should or should not be sentenced to death. The jury will then make a final recommendation for sentencing based on these arguments. The final decision will be up to the judge.

Murder Defense in Florida

If you are facing first-degree murder charges, you need to contact a defense attorney right away. Whether you are facing life in prison or the death penalty, you need experienced defense by your side. At Hager & Schwartz, P.A., we have helped numerous clients facing serious murder charges, and we want to help you too. We understand the complexity of these cases and know what it takes to get our clients the best possible results. Call us at (954) 840-8713 today.