Crime of Passion Defenses in Florida: Their Types and What They Can Do for You in Your Case

Men and the homicidal reactions their wives’ adulterous affairs triggered (or allegedly triggered) have long been the grist for the plots of both music (Garth Brooks’ “Papa Loved Mama” comes to mind) and jokes. In one joke, a man confesses to his neighbor (via text message) his numerous and regular indiscretions with the neighbor’s wife. The neighbor shoots dead both the wife and the texter. Back home, the shooter discovers a second text where the confessor informs him that autocorrect had altered his first message and that he had not been indulging himself in the pleasures of the neighbor’s wife, but rather the neighbor’s wifi internet. The joke concluded with the confessor whimsically remarking, “Technology, huh? It’ll be the death of us all.” Most folks read this joke and see irony and humor. An insightful Tampa Bay criminal defense lawyer sees a good opportunity to discuss crime of passion defenses in Florida homicide cases.

Back in November, a Hillsborough County jury rejected a Tampa man’s crime of passion defense, instead finding him guilty of first- and second-degree murder for the shooting deaths of his girlfriend and her 10-year-old son. The jury recommended the death penalty, rejecting the man’s contention that he snapped after the girlfriend insulted the memory of his son who died by suicide. Allegedly, the trigger occurred when the woman told the man “I see why your son killed himself like a [expletive] because you’re a little [expletive],” according to FOX 13.

That Tampa case is a reminder of a very important concept: the provocations that can allow a defendant to invoke a crime of passion defense are varied… and vary by state. Most people immediately think of the sudden discovery of cheating spouses, but provocation can also come from being the victim of certain crimes, or even (in some states, including Florida) being the recipient of a romantic overture from a gay or trans person.

Crime of passion defenses in Florida have existed for more than a century. Back in 1912, the Florida Supreme Court wrote that a “sudden transport of passion, caused by adequate provocation, if it suspends the exercise of judgment, and dominates volition, so as to exclude premeditation and a previously formed design, may not excuse or justify a homicide, but it may be sufficient to reduce a homicide below murder in the first degree.”

Partial Versus Complete Crime of Passion Defenses

That 1912 decision covered what the law calls a partial crime of passion defense. It says that the fit of emotion the defendant experienced was not enough to absolve him completely, but it does absolve of the intent required to find him guilty of things like premeditation (in a first-degree murder case) or depravity (in a second-degree murder case.)

There’s also, though, a set of circumstances where a crime of passion defense can remove all criminal liability. That’s the complete crime of passion defense and occurs when the homicide was the result of an “accident or misfortune” committed in the heat of passion.

One real-life local example of that type of defense was a Tampa restaurateur who escaped conviction following the death of the man who robbed him. In the case, a 24-year-old man robbed a downtown Tampa restaurant using a pellet gun. The robber later fled on foot, so the restaurateur jumped into his SUV and chased the robber. Two blocks away, the restaurateur caught up, striking and killing the robber with the front of his vehicle.

The defense argued that the killing was the result of the restaurateur’s emotional response to having been robbed. The six-person jury agreed and found the defendant not guilty.

Whether your case calls for the assertion of a complete or partial crime of passion defense, a knowledgeable Florida lawyer can deploy and utilize that defense to its maximum effectiveness. If you are facing homicide charges, don’t wait to retain counsel. Get in touch with the skilled Tampa Bay criminal defense attorneys at Blake & Dorsten P.A. We’ve handled countless felony cases and we will work vigorously to present your case and defend your rights. Call us today at (727) 286-6141 to schedule your FREE initial consultation.

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