What Is the Felony Murder Law?

Take this scenario: Jack was not carrying a gun, knife, or weapon of any kind. He was not near the victim when they were fatally shot, but he was one of the people allegedly committing a carjacking.

The victim killed during the carjacking was Jack's partner. This person was using force to attempt to take another individual's vehicle. The victim of the alleged carjacking was actually the one who caused the death of Jack's partner. Yet it was Jack who was later charged with murder.

How was that possible? Jack didn't have a weapon, he didn't intend to cause anyone's death, and he was merely serving as a lookout while his partner tried to take the car.

Although many people think that someone may be charged with murder only if they planned the crime and knowingly took another's life, Florida's murder law contains various situations in which a person might commit the offense. One such provision states that a person can be accused of murder if the death of another results while that individual was committing, attempting to commit, or fleeing after committing a particular offense. This is what is referred to as felony murder.

Understanding Florida's Felony Murder Law

Three situations may give rise to a felony murder charge. The example given at the start of the blog is one.

In that circumstance:

  • A person was killed while
  • Jack and his partner were committing a carjacking, and
  • The individual who did the killing was someone not involved in the commission of the carjacking

The example is of felony murder in the second degree. However, Florida law also enumerates felony murder in the first and third degrees.

As with a second-degree felony murder charge, a first-degree charge arises when someone is killed during the commission or attempted commission of a specific felony. The difference is that a first-degree felony murder occurs when someone is killed by a person involved in the offense's commission.

Returning to the example with Jack, if Jack's partner killed the vehicle's owner, Jack may be charged with felony murder in the first degree. That's because the victim's death was caused by one of the principals in the carjacking. With first-degree felony murder, the State does not have to prove that the individual planned or intended to kill the victim.

The elements of third-degree felony murder are similar to those of first-degree. However, the two offenses differ in that the State does not have to prove that the person who killed the victim did not "design to effect death."

It's important to note that felony murder charges arise in cases other than those involving carjackings.

The other felonies listed in the statute include, but are not limited to:

Felony murder can be charged as a capital, first-degree, or second-degree felony. A conviction may result in the death penalty, life imprisonment, or up to 15 years in prison.

If you or a loved one has been accused of a violent crime in Daytona Beach, you need a seasoned defense attorney on your side to help fight your charge. At Hager & Schwartz, P.A., our team has over 40 years of combined experience, and we can deliver the legal representation you need.

Call us at (386) 693-1637 or contact us online today. Your initial consultation is free.