One of the most controversial topics in the United States is the use of the death penalty. The death penalty, which is also known as capital punishment, is the most severe criminal punishment. And despite the controversy surrounding the death penalty, it remains in use in Florida.
In Florida, individuals may be put to death if they have been found guilty of the most heinous of crimes. Capital punishment, in Florida, may occur by either lethal injection or by electrocution as well as any constitutional method should the other two be found unconstitutional.
When Is Capital Punishment Appropriate?
Florida law authorizes the use of capital punishment for individuals found guilty of a capital felony. An individual cannot be sentenced to death if he or she is not found guilty of a capital felony.
A capital felony is a very specific set classification of crimes which includes:
- Capital drug trafficking
- Armed kidnapping
- Crimes with sexual components
It remains important to distinguish between capital and noncapital felonies. For example, an individual can commit murder and it may not be considered a capital felony. An individual who commits second-degree murder, meaning that the murder was not premeditated but instead disregarded human life, cannot be found to have committed capital murder. Also, an individual found guilty of manslaughter does not possess the required thought to be found guilty of capital murder.
Non-murder felonies can also be capital felonies. In these instances, the crime committed included some additional aggravating factor(s). For example, an individual may be found to have committed a capital felony for sexual assault if the victim is under the age of 12. A capital felony can also occur whenever an individual is killed during the course of trafficking illegal drugs.
How Is Someone Sentenced to Death?
An individual found guilty of a capital felony may be sentenced to death. Capital punishment is not mandatory, however. Instead, capital punishment may only be used following a specific process that leads to the determination that capital punishment is appropriate.
According to Florida law, the capital sentencing procedure is a two-phase process. First, a defendant must be found guilty of a capital felony. Following a guilty verdict, the penalty phase begins. Here, a jury must determine whether or not, given the guilty verdict, the defendant should be sentenced to death.
As of March 2017, Florida law requires that the jury in the sentencing phase must unanimously determine that the use of capital punishment is appropriate. Failure to reach a unanimous verdict will prohibit implementation of capital punishment. Instead, the defendant may be sentenced to life in prison.
A defendant can appeal a guilty verdict and his or her sentencing. Moreover, the Florida Supreme Court shall review each guilty verdict where the death penalty is imposed and render a disposition within two years.
Contact a St. Petersburg Criminal Defense Attorney
You are entitled to legal defense even if you are charged with a capital felony. In Florida, being charged with a capital felony can result in capital punishment. Therefore, you should seek experienced legal counsel that will fight to defend your rights. Our team here at the Khonsari Law Group is committed to providing you with outstanding legal defense. Schedule your initial consultation by calling (727) 269-5300 or writing us online today.