Two of the most serious crimes in Florida are murder of a law enforcement officer (LEO) and attempted murder of a law enforcement officer.
Florida law provides for increased sentences for crimes against law enforcement officers.
For first-degree murder of a law enforcement officer (which requires proof that the murder was committed during the commission of a felony or with premeditation), the maximum penalty is death by lethal injection. If the death penalty is not imposed, the court may only impose a life sentence without parole.
For second-degree murder of a law enforcement officer (which does not require proof that the murder was committed with premeditation or during the commission of a felony), the court may sentence the accused to life in prison.
Attempted murder can be divided into attempted first-degree murder and attempted second-degree murder. Like first and second-degree murder, an attempt to commit either offense requires proof that the attempt was done with premediation or during the commission of a felony for attempted first. For attempted second, neither premeditation nor commission of a felony is required. Attempted first of a police officer is punishable by life. Attempted second of a police officer is punishable by up to 30 years in prison.
Attempted second-degree murder of a law enforcement officer can often be charged when a suspect flees a traffic stop and nearly strikes the officer with the car. This crime, which is really an aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer, is usually overcharged.
Violent crimes against police officers, such as murder and attempted murder, are very serious because of the relationship between the State Attorney's Office and the police departments of Miami-Dade and Broward County. Police and prosecutors work together on cases, and when somebody is accused of killing or trying to kill a police officer, prosecutors normally seek the maximum penalty.
Eric Matheny is a criminal defense attorney serving Miami-Dade and Broward.