Second-degree murder is a higher level of crime than manslaughter, the charge that many speculated Zimmerman would face.
The murder charge, [University of Florida law professor Michael] Seigel said, means that the prosecutor believes the killing was carried out without the heat of passion but still may not have been planned in advance.
If Zimmerman is found guilty, he could face life in prison, Seigel said.
The next big battle will likely be over whether Zimmerman should be freed on bail while the case moves forward. A judge would have to decide whether Zimmerman is a possible risk to skip out on the case and the decision could come down to whether his family or someone else would be willing to put up enough money to guarantee his attendance.
That decision will likely be fraught with peril, given the level of outrage in the community brought on by the fact that police refused to arrest Zimmerman after the shooting.
The next major battle, according to Tampa, Fla., criminal defense attorney James Felman, who has no involvement in the case, will come down to whether Zimmerman decides to use the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law as the basis for his defense.