Capital Felony

Conviction of a capital felony means the sentence imposed can be life imprisonment or death. In Florida capital felonies include murder, capital drug trafficking, armed kidnapping, and some felony crimes when there are death or sexual components to the felony charge. A list of capital felonies in Florida can be obtained by calling your South Florida criminal defense attorney. Some federal crimes are punishable by death. A conviction for murder, armed drug trafficking, and other capital offenses requires a separate sentencing proceeding in which the jury will consider aggravating factors and mitigating factors and deliberate on the issue of imposing death. The jury's decision to impose the death penalty is not binding on the judge in Florida. The imposition of the death penalty in capital felony cases in Florida is reserved for and exclusively a decision made by the judge. In South Florida the Florida felony courts in Fort Lauderdale, Miami, and West Palm Beach conduct over 200 death penalty capital felony trials per year. For more information on capital homicide, capital felonies, and other death penalty cases in Florida criminal courts if I refer you to the death penalty project website.

Aggravating Circumstances in Felony Capital Cases

Aggravators are elements of a crime which enhanced the punishment. In Florida felony cases in which death is a possible punishment, felony aggravators include prior felony convictions for violent crimes, a crime committed for pecuniary gain, a crime committed to silence a witness, and felony crimes committed while on probation or community control in Florida. The aggravators (factors) in Florida which raise a felony capital conviction to a death case are created in Florida by statute and court rulings. In Florida, being charged with a crime in Federal Court, such as armed drug trafficking, murder of a federal official, some terrorist crimes are felonies punishable by death in Federal court. A federal criminal attorney in Florida would be familiar with federal crimes punishable by death. Florida federal criminal courts and attorneys who practice in federal court are familiar with the death penalty proceedings in capital felony, murder, drug trafficking, and armed kidnapping cases which are prosecuted in South Florida federal courts. Because of the complexity of the death penalty process Florida has created a requirement that lawyers practicing criminal law in Florida courts be certified as death qualified criminal lawyers. Death qualified Florida criminal defense attorneys can sit either as first chair, which means they handle the guilt phase of a Florida criminal trial, and second chair. In Florida capital felonies such as armed drug trafficking, murder, armed kidnapping, require a second trial called the sentencing phase. During the sentencing phase a jury considers the aggravators and mitigators before they can pronounce their recommendation for the imposition of the death penalty in Florida.

Not All Capital Felonies Are Death Cases

In Florida capital felonies, those for which death can be imposed, are governed by two different statutes. One statute covers capital felonies generally and the other Florida statute governs capital drug trafficking felonies. Criminal courts in major Florida cities such as Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Beach generate a significant number of death penalty and post conviction relief appeals in Florida. Lawyers practicing criminal defense in South Florida have litigated death penalty cases both in Florida criminal courts and in the United States Supreme Court. Florida has the distinction of generating many and in some years, most, of the capital felony death cases that move from South Florida criminal courts to the United States Supreme Court. Because of the complexity of the law; both the procedure for imposing death in capital felony cases and capital drug trafficking cases, a referral to an experienced South Florida criminal defense lawyer is a very necessary first step. If you or a family member or friend is charged in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, or West Palm Beach or any other South Florida cities such as Pompano Beach, Weston, Davie or other municipalities in Broward County with a capital felony you should obtain a referral to a Florida criminal defense lawyer, or a Florida federal criminal defense lawyer for a consultation.