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What are Felony Murder Charges?

September 21, 2018, on Criminal Defense Articles, Violent Crimes |

An Albany felony attorney can provide representation when you face serious charges, including charges for murder. Many people are surprised to learn that they can actually be charged with murder even if they did not kill anyone. That's because there's a legal doctrine called the felony murder rule.

The New York Times reported recently on felony murder, including details of a conviction of a teenager who had just turned 15. 

Understanding Felony Murder

The case profiled by the New York Times involved four teenagers who broke into the home of an elderly neighbor looking for cash. One of the teenagers, who had just turned 15 years old, was responsible for guarding the back door of the home. The teen went inside only briefly to steal some chocolate candies before returning outside. When he went into the home, he saw that the 77-year-old homeowner was seriously hurt.

The 15-year-old didn't actually do anything to the victim personally. Yet, even though he had not ever laid a hand on him, the New York Times reports that he was sentenced to 25-years to life for the neighbor's murder.  The 15-year-old is one of hundreds who have been convicted under the felony murder rule.

Under the felony murder rule, anyone who is involved in a certain type of felony offense can be held legally liable if someone dies when the felony is committed – even if that person did not actually kill someone and was not responsible for the death. This could mean, for example, that if you planned a robbery with a co-conspirator and the co-conspirator was shot during the course of the robbery by the store owner, you could be charged with felony murder associated with the death of the co-conspirator in the crime.

While felony murder charges have resulted in many convictions, some states (including California where the defendant profiled in the NY Times story lives) are considering changing the law so those who do not actually commit murder are not tried and sentenced harshly to decades or even life imprisonment. In fact, a bill is moving swiftly through the California legislature that would change state law so that the only people who can be charged with murder are those who kill someone, who intend to kill someone or who act as a major player with reckless indifference to human life.

If this change occurs in California, defendants like the young man profiled by the Times won't end up spending life in prison because of relatively minor involvement in a crime. However, other states across the country will still have felony murder charges in place, so defendants will continue to face this potential fate.

New York is one of many states with a felony murder rule, so if you are accused of a felony in which someone lost his life, it is imperative that you are represented by an Albany felony attorney who can provide you with the aggressive representation you need to fight against conviction.  Contact an attorney as soon as possible for help.

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