Felony Murder Lawyers
What is Felony Murder?
Generally, Felony Murder is any killing that that happens during the commission of an inherently dangerous felony and is considered First Degree Murder.
What is an Inherently Dangerous Felony?
Main types of Inherently Dangerous Felonies are:
Can an Accidental Killing Still Be Classified as First Degree Murder?
Yes. Felony Murder is any killing that happens during the commission of an inherently dangerous felony. However, in order to be convicted of Felony Murder, one must be convicted of the underlying felony. Remember, Felony Murder is graded as First Degree Murder.
What Is First Degree Murder?
First degree murder is an intentional killing with malicious intent which is typically premeditated. In felony murder though, the killing need not be premeditated and the malicious intent element is fulfilled through the successful conviction of the inherently dangerous felony.
First degree murder is the most serious crime in any criminal code and, depending on the state, can carry a sentence ranging from life imprisonment without parole to the death penalty.
How Is Felony Murder Legal If The Defendant Never Intended To Kill Anyone?
Felony murder borrows an old legal doctrine from civil law known as transfer of intent. Transfer of intent means that the intent of one proven crime is used to fulfill the intent requirement of another crime.
The defendant is unable to argue that he or she has no intent to kill because the original action that caused the murder charge, the inherently dangerous felony, is not legal itself. If the defendant intended to commit the inherently dangerous felony, then the law reasons that the defendant should have foreseen that his intention to commit that felony would most likely cause harm to others. In that way, the malicious intent requirement for murder is satisfied.
What If the Defendant Is An Accomplice To the Felony But Didn’t Commit the Actual Murder?
The answer will vary from state to state, but in general, only the defendant who is directly response for the killing during the felony act will be charged with felony murder. Many states will decline to charge the accomplice for a killing they didn’t do. The accomplice will, however, be charged as aiding and abetting the original felony.
How Does Felony Murder Interact With Three Strikes Laws?
Three strikes laws are laws which extend punishments if a person is found guilty of three or more felonies. The interaction with felony murder can be very bad for defendants who are charged with involuntary manslaughter.
Involuntary manslaughter can either be a misdemeanor or a felony in certain cases. If a three strikes law is in effect though, the involuntary manslaughter may turn into a felony. Since the involuntary manslaughter turns into a felony and a person was killed because of the defendant, the felony murder rule may also trigger.
A few states have provisions against this from happening, although the decision to turn the involuntary manslaughter into a felony and the decision to trigger the felony murder rule is typically up to the prosecutor and the judge.
What Can You Do if You Are or Feel You May Be Accused of Felony Murder?
Since the laws for Felony Murder vary by state, consult a criminal defense lawyer familiar with your state laws immediately to learn of your possible rights and defenses.
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Last Modified: 09-19-2012 02:19 PM PDT
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