Capital Felony

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 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.

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 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.