Felony Murder

The crime of felony murder is a felony under both state and federal law. Felony murder was originally known by the “felony murder rule” which was a common law doctrine. Today, it has been codified under state and federal law. Felony murder is a legal doctrine that broadens the crime of murder in two ways: where an offender kills (regardless of whether it was without the specific intent to kill) in the commission of a dangerous or enumerated felony; or where the offender is a participant in a felony where a death results, the offender is also criminally liable for any deaths that occur during or in furtherance of that felony. Thus, death that occurs in the commission of a dangerous felony or enumerated felony is murder of the first degree.

Under Federal law, felony murder is murder of the first degree while committed in the perpetration of, or attempt to perpetrate, any arson, escape, murder, kidnapping, treason, espionage, sabotage, aggravated sexual abuse or sexual abuse, child abuse, burglary, or robbery.

To be convicted under federal law of felony murder, the government must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that: 1. the victim was killed; 2. the death of the victim occurred as a result of the defendant’s knowingly committing or attempting to commit the crime specified in the indictment; and 3. the killing took place within the special maritime or territorial jurisdiction of the United States. Conviction of this offense in federal court is a felony and is punishable by LIFE imprisonment or DEATH.

Under Florida State law, felony murder is murder of the first degree when committed by a person engaged in the perpetration of, or in the attempt to perpetrate, any trafficking offense, arson, sexual battery, robbery, burglary, kidnapping, escape, aggravated child abuse, aggravated abuse of an elderly person or disabled adult, aircraft piracy, unlawful throwing, placing, or discharging of a destructive device or bomb, carjacking, home-invasion robbery, aggravated stalking, murder of another human being, resisting an officer with violence to his or her person, aggravated fleeing or eluding with serious bodily injury or death, felony that is an act of terrorism or is in furtherance of an act of terrorism; or unlawful distribution of any controlled substance, cocaine, opium or any synthetic or natural salt, compound, derivative, or preparation of opium, or methadone by a person 18 years of age or older, when such drug is proven to be the proximate cause of the death of the user.

To be convicted under Florida state law, the state must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that: 1. the victim is dead; 2. while engaged in the commission of an enumerated felony, the defendant or defendant’s accomplice caused the death of the victim; or while engaged in the attempt to commit an enumerated felony, the defendant or defendant’s accomplice caused the death of the victim; or while escaping from the immediate scene after committing or attempting to commit an enumerated felony, the defendant or defendant’s accomplice caused the death of the victim; and 3. the defendant was the person who actually killed the victim; or the victim was killed by a person other than defendant; but both the defendant and the person who killed the victim were principals in the commission of the crime alleged. Conviction of this offense is a capital felony and is punishable by DEATH or LIFE without the possibility of parole.

Attorney Petruzzi has years of experience defending those charged with felony murder. It is important for one to hire an experienced attorney when faced with this type of charge. Attorney Petruzzi’s knowledge and expertise in this field of law is a vital asset to anyone charged with this crime. Call today for a free consultation.