Felony Murder generally occurs when a person acts with the intention to commit a felony and as a result of committing the felony a death occurs. The classic example is when a getaway driver is charged with felony murder when the robber shoots and kills the bank teller during the robbery. In order to convict of First Degree Felony Murder, it is not necessary for the State of Florida to prove that the defendant had a premeditated design or intent to kill but only that the death occurred during the commission of the felony.
In order to prove a First Degree Felony Murder, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- The victim is dead.
- The Defendant killed the victim during the commission of a felony.
- The death occurred as a consequence of and while the defendant was
engaged in the commission of a felony; or
The death occurred as a consequence of and while the defendant was attempting to commit a felony; or
The death occurred as a consequence of and while the defendant, or an accomplice, was escaping from the immediate scene of the felony
If it can be proven that the underlying felony was not committed, then the Defendant of course is not guilty of Felony Murder. Our Florida criminal defense lawyers when defending a Florida felony murder charge or any other charge attack every potential element of a crime for our clients. Often prosecutions are so preoccupied with the fact someone died, they leave themselves open to attack on another element that may result in the defendant walking.
Previous to the Supreme Court's decision in Edmund v. Florida in 1982 a First Degree Felony Murder was punishable by death. Now it is punishable by Life Imprisonment.
Second Degree Felony Murder can be found in a death that occurred as a consequence of and while a felony is being committed. A jury can find a defendant guilty of Second Degree Felony Murder when:
- The victim is dead; and
- The death occurred as a consequence of and while there was an attempt to commit a felony; or
The death occurred as a consequence of and while there was an escape from the immediate scene of a felony; or
While a Defendant may not be the person who actually killed the victim, the defendant did knowingly aid, abet, counsel, hire, or otherwise procure the commission of the felony, or
The person who actually killed the victim was not involved in the commission or the attempt to commit the felony, but rather was an accessory before the fact.
Tempted felony murder is a more unusual crime and is charged when a perpetrator causes a death or injury while engaged in the commission of a felony. Perpetrators do not have to commit the actual elements of the felony; they may be guilty if they are merely aiding or assisting someone else in the commission of a felony. Depending on the severity of the victim's injuries, the punishment for attempted felony murder may range up to life in prison. Twice, the Florida Supreme Court has found that the Attempted Felony Murder law is unconstitutional and struck the whole law or components of the law down. The rewritten law may still be unconstitutional and our Felony Murder defense lawyers will continue the fight to have the law overturned again. For the time, this remains a very serious crime for which you should always have help from a good Florida felony murder or attempted felony murder criminal defense lawyer.
Felony Murder is often relied upon as a fallback position for the State in homicide cases; if the State cannot prove the top charge of murder, often they throw in the charge of felony murder. A Board Certified Criminal Trial Lawyer can help negate whatever charge the State brings in a murder prosecution. All cases and facts are different, so contact us to discuss your case and how we could help.