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Not All Murder Charges Are the Same – Exploring Felony Murder

All murder is not the same. Murder is separated into different categories and the level of the charge determines the penalties. Retaining a murder defense attorney immediately after being charged can help minimize the potential maximum punishment. Murder is not as clear cut as people think. The different types of murder charges in Pennsylvania include felony murder, which is a murder that occurs during the commission of a felony. Felony murder is more complex than other types of murder. If you have been charged with murder, do not say anything to the police without an attorney. You need a tough felony murder lawyer by your side from the beginning of the investigation.

What is Felony Murder?

Any death that occurs during the commission of a felony may be charged as murder in the second degree. Under Pennsylvania law, even an accomplice can be convicted of felony murder. A defendant can be convicted of second degree murder if, during the course of a felony crime, a person died, even if the defendant did not have the specific intent to kill that person.

Felony Murder Scenario

To be sure, if a person is killed while a defendant is committing a felony, the defendant can be charged with second degree murder. Examples of felony crimes include robbery, rape, arson and burglary. Consider the following scenario:

Mary and Todd plan to rob the jewelry store where Mary is employed. Mary is an assistant manager at the jewelry store and is in charge of closing and securing the store at night. Mary and Todd decide that one night Mary will not turn on the alarm system and Todd will break in and rob the jewelry store later that evening. The two follow through with their plan but unbeknownst to Mary and Todd, the jewelry store manager returned to the store that same night to pick up some paperwork. Todd breaks into the store as planned but is shocked when he sees the manager in the back office. Acting quickly out of fear, Todd takes out the gun he brought just in case and shoots and kills the manager. Todd then steals the most expensive diamonds from the store and runs out. Mary was not aware Todd had a gun during the robbery.

Can Mary be Charged with Felony Murder?

In the above scenario, Mary and Todd can both be charged with felony murder. Todd is the principal because he is the perpetrator of the crime and Mary is an accomplice because she aided Todd in committing the robbery. During the commission of the robbery, Todd shot and killed the manager. This is considered felony murder and Mary will be charged just like Todd, even though she was unaware Todd had a gun, she was not present and did not kill the manager. Simply participating in a robbery that led to the victim’s death is enough for Mary to be charged with felony murder.

Exercise Your Right to an Attorney Before Speaking to Police

Committing a felony can quickly escalate to a far more serious charge. All the parties involved in the felony will be held accountable for the actions of the others involved. Unfortunately, most people are unaware or do not fully understand the felony murder rule. If you find yourself facing felony murder charges that put your entire future in jeopardy, you deserve an aggressive attorney to defend you. Speaking to the police without a lawyer is a trap that many people fall into. The police do not have your best interest in mind. Protect yourself and hire a Philadelphia criminal defense attorney from the start of the investigation. The skilled, committed murder attorneys at van der Veen, Hartshorn and Levin will aggressively protect your innocence.