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The rule of felony murder is a legal
doctrine Doctrine (from la, Wikt:doctrina, doctrina, meaning "teaching, instruction") is a codification (law), codification of beliefs or a body of teacher, teachings or instructions, taught Value (personal and cultural), principles or positions, as the e ...

doctrine
in some
common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law Case law is the collection of past legal decisions written by courts and similar tribunal A tribunal, generally, is any person or institution with authority ...
jurisdiction Jurisdiction (from Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language A classical language is a language A language is a structured system of communication Communication (from Latin ''communicare'', meaning "to share" or "to be i ...
s that broadens the crime of
murder Murder is the unlawful killing of another human without justification (jurisprudence), justification or valid excuse (legal), excuse, especially the unlawful killing of another human with malice aforethought. ("The killing of another person w ...

murder
: when an offender kills (regardless of intent to kill) in the commission of a dangerous or enumerated crime (called a
felony A felony is traditionally considered a crime of high seriousness Seriousness (noun; adjective: ''serious'') is an attitude of gravitas, gravity, :wikt:solemnity, solemnity, persistence, and :wikt:earnest, earnestness toward something considered t ...
in some jurisdictions), the offender, and also the offender's accomplices or co-conspirators, may be found guilty of murder. The concept of felony murder originates in the rule of
transferred intentTransferred intent (or transferred ''mens rea'', or transferred malice, in English law) is a legal doctrine that holds that, when the intention to harm one individual inadvertently causes a second person to be hurt instead, the perpetrator is still ...
, which is older than the limit of legal memory. In its original form, the malicious intent inherent in the commission of any crime, however trivial, was considered to apply to any consequences of that crime regardless of intent.


History

While there is debate about the original scope of the rule, modern interpretations typically require that the offence be an inherently dangerous one, or one committed in an obviously dangerous manner. For this reason, the felony murder rule is often justified by its supporters as a means of deterring dangerous felonies. According to some commentators, the
common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law Case law is the collection of past legal decisions written by courts and similar tribunal A tribunal, generally, is any person or institution with authority ...
rule dates to the twelfth century and took its modern form in the eighteenth century. The modern conception of the felony murder rule arose in 1716, with William Hawkins' ''Treatise of Pleas of the Crown'', during his work on
English criminal law English criminal law concerns offences, their prevention and the consequences, in England and Wales England and Wales () is a legal jurisdiction covering England and Wales, two of the four countries of the United Kingdom, parts of the United K ...
. Hawkins reasoned that malice was implicit in a crime that "necessarily tends to raise Tumults and Quarrels, and consequently cannot but be attended with the danger of personal hurt." Thus, "this rule should extend to killings in the course of felonies à fortiori."


Elements

In most jurisdictions, to qualify as an underlying offense for a felony murder charge, the underlying offense must present a foreseeable danger to life, and the link between the offense and the death must not be too remote. For example, if the recipient of a
forged Forging is a manufacturing process Manufacturing is the creation or Production (economics), production of goods with the help of equipment, Work (human activity), labor, machines, tools, and chemical or biological processing or formulation ...
check has a fatal allergic reaction to the ink, most courts will not hold the forger guilty of murder, as the cause of death is too remote from the criminal act. There are two schools of thought concerning whose actions can cause the defendant to be guilty of felony murder. Jurisdictions that hold to the "agency theory" admit only deaths caused by the agents of the crime. Jurisdictions that use the "proximate cause theory" include any death, even if caused by a bystander or the police, provided that it meets one of several
proximate cause In law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influenced by its environment, is described by i ...
tests to determine if the chain of events between the offence and the death was short enough to have legally caused the death. The merger doctrine excludes from the offenses that qualify as underlying offenses any felony that is presupposed by a murder charge. For example, nearly all murders involve some type of
assault An assault is the act of inflicting physical harm or unwanted physical contact upon a person or, in some specific legal definitions, a threat or attempt to commit such an action. It is both a crime In ordinary language, a crime is an u ...

assault
, but so do many cases of
manslaughter Manslaughter is a common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of being stated in written opinions. ''Black ...
. To count any death that occurred during the course of an assault as felony murder would obliterate a distinction that is carefully set by the legislature. However, merger may not apply when an assault against one person results in the death of a different person. Felony murder is typically the same grade of murder as premeditated murder and carries the same sentence as is used for premeditated murder in the jurisdiction in question.


By country

The felony murder rule has been abolished in
England and Wales England and Wales () is a legal jurisdiction covering England and Wales, two of the four countries of the United Kingdom, parts of the United Kingdom. England and Wales forms the constitutional successor to the former Kingdom of England and follows ...

England and Wales
and in
Northern Ireland Northern Ireland ( ga, Tuaisceart Éireann ; sco, label=Ulster-ScotsUlster Scots, also known as Scotch-Irish, may refer to: * Ulster Scots people The Ulster Scots (Ulster-Scots The Ulster Scots (Ulster Scots dialects, Ulster- ...

Northern Ireland
. In Canada, it has been held to be unconstitutional, as breaching the principles of fundamental justice. In some jurisdictions, the common law felony murder (called constructive murder) rule has been abolished, but has been replaced by a similar statutory provision (such as in
Victoria, Australia Victoria (abbreviated as Vic) is a States and territories of Australia, state in southeastern Australia. It is the second-smallest state with a land area of and the most densely populated state in Australia (28 per km2). Victoria is bord ...
with the
Crimes Act 1958 The Crimes Act 1958 is an Act of the Parliament of Victoria The Parliament of Victoria is the bicameral Bicameralism is a type of legislature A legislature is a deliberative assembly with the authority In the fields of sociology ...
). Similarly, in New South Wales, common law has been overridden and the question needs only be dealt with through statutory construction and application..


Australia

In New South Wales, § 18(1)(a) of the ''Crimes Act 1900'' provides the statutory definition of 'constructive murder'. The act or omission causing death must be "done in an attempt to commit or during or immediately after the commission, by the accused, or some accomplice with him or her, of a crime punishable by imprisonment for life or for 25 years".(1)(a). The rationale is to discourage acts of felony which are dangerous to human life. ''Ryan v R''. clarifies the elements of constructive murder. The prosecution must prove beyond reasonable doubt: (1) a base offence with 25 years' imprisonment or more; and that (2) the act causing death occurred in attempt, during, or immediately after this base offence. This means that the prosecution must prove both the ''actus reus'' and ''mens rea'' of this base offence. ''R v Munro'' confirmed that the ''mens rea'' of the act causing death is not required to prove constructive murder. For example, the accused may commit an act causing death in the course of robbery or armed robbery without any intention to kill, to inflict grievous bodily harm, or with reckless indifference to human life.


Canada

As Canadian criminal law aims to maintain proportionality between the stigma and punishment attached to a conviction and the moral blameworthiness of an offender, in ''R v Martineau'' the Supreme Court of Canada held that it is a principle of fundamental justice under sections 7 and 11(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that a conviction for murder requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt of a ''subjective foresight of death''. In so doing, the court declared sections 230 and 229(c) of the Criminal Code (Canada), ''Criminal Code'' to be unconstitutional.Edited case version in S. 230 provided that a conviction for murder would lie for any killing that was "objectively foreseeable as a result of the abominable nature of the predicate crimes ... ''inter alia'' ... coupled with intentional infliction of bodily harm". This largely equated with a Canadian form of felony murder, though it is technically closer to constructive murder in other jurisdictions. Similarly, according to s. 229(c) it was sufficient for a person to do anything that he "''ought to know'' is likely to cause death". Nevertheless, s. 229(c), as far as it provides for a form of constructive murder in situations where "an accused for an unlawful object did anything ''knowing'' that it was likely [on an objective standard] to cause someone's death" is still operative, as confirmed in a 1999 appellate court decision. Bill C-39 was introduced in 2017 in order to repeal s. 230 and modify s. 229(c). Like other common law jurisdictions, Canada's Criminal Code specifically enumerates offences to account for instances where (a) person(s) is/are unintentionally killed during the commission of a crime (for example, criminal negligence causing death and impaired driving causing death). In cases where multiple deaths are caused by the same criminal act, the accused will face a separate charge for each death caused. While such charges are not considered to be murder under Canadian law, the maximum penalty for such offences is still life imprisonment – although unlike murder this is not a mandatory sentence and is only very rarely imposed. The main difference between a sentence of life imprisonment for murder and a sentence of life imprisonment for an offence such as criminal negligence causing death is that in the latter case, the offender is eligible for parole after serving seven years.


Ireland

The rule was abolished in the Republic of Ireland by section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act 1964 which codified the ''mens rea'' for
murder Murder is the unlawful killing of another human without justification (jurisprudence), justification or valid excuse (legal), excuse, especially the unlawful killing of another human with malice aforethought. ("The killing of another person w ...

murder
as intention to kill or seriously injure another person.


United Kingdom


England and Wales, Northern Ireland

The rule was abolished in
England and Wales England and Wales () is a legal jurisdiction covering England and Wales, two of the four countries of the United Kingdom, parts of the United Kingdom. England and Wales forms the constitutional successor to the former Kingdom of England and follows ...

England and Wales
by section 1 of the Homicide Act 1957, and in
Northern Ireland Northern Ireland ( ga, Tuaisceart Éireann ; sco, label=Ulster-ScotsUlster Scots, also known as Scotch-Irish, may refer to: * Ulster Scots people The Ulster Scots (Ulster-Scots The Ulster Scots (Ulster Scots dialects, Ulster- ...

Northern Ireland
by section 8 of the Criminal Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 1966; but its effect is preserved by the application of the common law principle of joint enterprise. In England and Wales, the definition of murder requires only an intent to cause grievous bodily harm to the victim, rather than specific intent to kill; the effect is the same as that of the felony murder rule applied to crimes of personal violence, though not to all felonies.


Scotland

There is no equivalent to the felony murder rule in Scots law, which has also never had a specific concept of ''felonies'' in the previous style of English law. However, the Scots equivalent of joint enterprise, known as "art and part", also has a similar effect.


United States

, 46 states in the United States had a felony murder rule, under which felony murder is generally first-degree murder. In 24 of those states, it is a capital punishment, capital offense. When the government seeks to Felony Murder and the Death Penalty, impose the death penalty on someone convicted of felony murder, the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution, Eighth Amendment has been interpreted so as to impose additional limitations on the state power. The death penalty may not be imposed if the defendant is merely a Enmund v. Florida, minor participant and did not actually kill or intend to kill. However, the death penalty may be imposed if the defendant is a Tison v. Arizona, major participant in the underlying felony and exhibits extreme indifference to human life. Most states recognize the Merger doctrine (criminal law), merger doctrine, which holds that a criminal
assault An assault is the act of inflicting physical harm or unwanted physical contact upon a person or, in some specific legal definitions, a threat or attempt to commit such an action. It is both a crime In ordinary language, a crime is an u ...

assault
cannot serve as the predicate felony for the felony murder rule. To avoid the need for reliance upon common law interpretations of what felony conduct merges with murder, and what offenses do and do not qualify for felony murder, many U.S. jurisdictions explicitly list what offenses qualify in a felony murder statute. Federal government of the United States, Federal law specifies additional crimes, including terrorism, kidnapping, and carjacking. The American Law Institute's Model Penal Code does not include the felony murder rule, but allows the commission of a felony to raise a presumption of extreme indifference to the value of human life. The felony murder rule is effectively used as a rule of evidence. The Model Penal Code lists robbery, rape or forcible deviant sexual intercourse, arson, burglary, and felonious escape as predicate felonies upon which a charge of felony murder can be maintained.


State law

* felony murder rule (Alabama), Alabama * felony murder rule (Alaska), Alaska * felony murder rule (American Samoa), American Samoa * felony murder rule (Arizona), Arizona * felony murder rule (Arkansas), Arkansas * felony murder rule (California), California * felony murder rule (Colorado), Colorado * Connecticut * Delaware * felony murder rule (Florida), Florida * felony murder rule (Georgia), Georgia * felony murder rule (Guam), Guam * felony murder rule (Hawaii), Hawaii (abolished) * felony murder rule (Idaho), Idaho * felony murder rule (Illinois), Illinois * felony murder rule (Indiana), Indiana * felony murder rule (Iowa), Iowa * felony murder rule (Kansas), Kansas * felony murder rule (Kentucky), Kentucky (abolished) * felony murder rule (Louisiana), Louisiana * felony murder rule (Maine), Maine * felony murder rule (Maryland), Maryland * felony murder rule (Massachusetts), Massachusetts * felony murder rule (Michigan), Michigan (abolished) * felony murder rule (Minnesota), Minnesota * felony murder rule (Mississippi), Mississippi * felony murder rule (Missouri), Missouri * felony murder rule (Montana), Montana * felony murder rule (Nebraska), Nebraska * felony murder rule (Nevada), Nevada * felony murder rule (New Hampshire), New Hampshire * felony murder rule (New Jersey), New Jersey (follows Model Penal Code) * felony murder rule (New Mexico), New Mexico * felony murder rule (New York), New York * felony murder rule (North Carolina), North Carolina * felony murder rule (North Dakota), North Dakota * felony murder rule (Northern Mariana Islands), Northern Mariana Islands * felony murder rule (Ohio), Ohio * felony murder rule (Oklahoma), Oklahoma * felony murder rule (Oregon), Oregon * felony murder rule (Pennsylvania), Pennsylvania * felony murder rule (Puerto Rico), Puerto Rico * felony murder rule (Rhode Island), Rhode Island * felony murder rule (South Carolina), South Carolina * felony murder rule (South Dakota), South Dakota * felony murder rule (Tennessee), Tennessee * felony murder rule (Texas), Texas * felony murder rule (Utah), Utah * felony murder rule (Vermont), Vermont * felony murder rule (Virgin Islands, US), Virgin Islands, US * felony murder rule (Virginia), Virginia * felony murder rule (Washington), Washington * felony murder rule (West Virginia), West Virginia * felony murder rule (Wisconsin), Wisconsin * felony murder rule (Wyoming), Wyoming * felony murder rule (District of Columbia), District of Columbia * felony murder rule (Federal), Federal


= Kentucky

= In the state of Kentucky, the
common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law Case law is the collection of past legal decisions written by courts and similar tribunal A tribunal, generally, is any person or institution with authority ...
felony murder rule has been completely abolished.


= KRS § 507.020

= The Kentucky Legislature abolished the felony murder rule with the enactment of Kentucky Revised Statutes § 507.020. Recognizing that an automatic application of the rule could result in conviction of
murder Murder is the unlawful killing of another human without justification (jurisprudence), justification or valid excuse (legal), excuse, especially the unlawful killing of another human with malice aforethought. ("The killing of another person w ...

murder
without a mens rea, culpable mindset, the Kentucky Legislature instead allowed the circumstances of a case, like the commission of a
felony A felony is traditionally considered a crime of high seriousness Seriousness (noun; adjective: ''serious'') is an attitude of gravitas, gravity, :wikt:solemnity, solemnity, persistence, and :wikt:earnest, earnestness toward something considered t ...
, to be considered separately. The facts each case would be used to show the mental state of the defendant instead of using an automatic rule.


=Minnesota v. Derek Michael Chauvin

= The police officer who murder of George Floyd, murdered George Floyd was tried and convicted under the Felony Murder rule.


Criticism

Critics of the felony murder rule argue that the rule is unjust because it requires no intent to kill. In the United States, for example, 20-year-old Florida resident Ryan Holle was convicted of first-degree murder for lending his car to a friend after his friend told him that he intended to go beat an 18-year-old woman. The friend took the car and beat the girl to death. In favor of the rule, it can be argued that the rule affirms the principle of the sanctity of human life by imposing harsher penalties for crimes that destroy human life. Some commentators regard the rule of transferred intent as a legal fiction whereby the law pretends that the person who intended one wrongful act also intends all the consequences of that act, however unforeseen. Others regard it as an example of strict liability whereby a person who chooses to commit a crime is considered absolutely responsible for all possible consequences of that action. Lord Mustill regards the historical rule as a convergence of those views.See statements of Lord Mustill,


See also

* Common purpose * Law of parties


References


Further reading

* ''R v Serné'' (1887) 16 Cox's Criminal Cases, Cox CC 311. *


External links


Curtis Brooks didn't kill anyone. He was still convicted of felony murder and sent to prison for life.


* [https://web.archive.org/web/20030922195540/http://www.prisonsfoundation.org/letters/WHAT%27S_WRONG_WITH_THE_FELONY_MURDER_RULE.html Prisons Foundation objections to the rule]
Arizona Supreme Court on the rule and the death penalty


Jeff Kass, Rocky Mountain News March 18, 2001; "Lawyers debate centuries-old legal concept." {{DEFAULTSORT:Felony Murder Rule Killings by type, Murder