The felony murder rule is one of the most controversial doctrines in all of criminal law. Normally, to be guilty of murder you must either intend for the victim to die or act with reckless disregard for life. Under the felony murder rule, however, you can be charged with murder if you participate in a felony that results in a death, even if you didn’t intend for anyone to die – all you have to do is intend to commit the underlying felony.
If your gun accidentally discharges and kills someone during the commission of a felony, for example, you might be charged with felony murder. The felony murder rule eliminates the need for the prosecutor to undertake the sometimes difficult task of proving that you intended to kill someone. Furthermore, since Georgia doesn’t recognize degrees of murder, your lack of intent to kill would not even be enough to reduce the charge to second-degree murder.
Not all felonies trigger the felony murder rule – only “inherently dangerous” felonies do, such as bank robbery, in which a death is reasonably foreseeable, even if not intended. You might be charged with felony murder if a death occurs during the commission of robbery, rape, arson, kidnapping, burglary, or running from the police, among other felonies. Nevertheless, you cannot be convicted of felony murder in every instance of these crimes – whether or not the felony murder rule applies depends on the specific facts of each individual case. The key issue is whether a death was reasonably foreseeable under the circumstances, not whether it was likely to occur or not.
Unfortunately, you can be charged with felony murder even if you didn’t kill anyone yourself. For example, if you participate in a robbery as the driver of the getaway car and the clerk shoots and kills your confederate in self-defense, you could be charged with the murder of your confederate even if you didn’t pull the trigger and didn’t even see the murder occur.
The minimum penalty for murder in Georgia, including felony murder, is life imprisonment. Although the death sentence is possible in more serious cases, the U.S. Constitution prevents it from being imposed unless the state can prove that you either intended to kill the victim or acted with reckless disregard for life.
At the ABT Law Firm, we can raise a number of defenses against a felony murder charge. We might argue, for example, that you did not commit the underlying felony, that the underlying felony was not an inherently dangerous one, or that the death of the victim was not reasonably foreseeable under the circumstances. However, keep in mind that our specific plan of attack depends upon the facts of your case, which we will review and assess at the time of your consultation.
A felony murder charge can place you in great legal danger. If you or someone you love has been charged with felony murder, call 1-800-NOJAIL-9 or 1-800-665-2459 immediately! We will use our decades of combined experience to get your charges dropped. We serve clients in Atlanta as well as all over Georgia, and we offer free initial consultations 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If necessary, we will even come to jail to meet with you.