If you read that headline and scratched your head, then you’re like many onlookers of the U.S. criminal justice system to whom concepts like “felony murder” seem unnecessarily aggressive. Roughly speaking, felony murder can occur when the intent of an individual is not to commit murder, but a person dies as the result of some other felony crime that the person committed. Florida lists a number of crimes where a felony murder charge may be in play. Those include (among several others):
- Human trafficking
- Home invasion
- Sexual assault
- Aggravated fleeing
While it certainly makes sense to charge someone with murder for a crime like arson or human trafficking if someone should die as a result of their actions, the charge of felony murder is rife for abuse.
The most recent case that has folks scratching their heads and justifiably outraged is that of a 15-year-old boy who was charged, found guilty, and sentenced under felony murder when a police officer shot and killed one of the four boys that he was with the night of a burglary spree. The 15-year-old boy was then given a 65-year sentence for the “murder” of a 16-year-old who was shot in the neck by a police officer while attempting to flee the scene.
A grand jury ruled that the shooting was justified, so the officer was never charged with any crime, but under Alabama’s accomplice liability, the 15-year-old boy was charged with murder.
Accomplice Liability in Florida
In Florida, you can be charged with a crime that another person commits under what is known as accomplice liability. As an example, let’s say that you provide a car to individuals that you know are going to use the car to commit a burglary. Not only would you be charged with the burglary, but you could also be charged with any other crime committed during the burglary, including if a murder occurs.
In other words, even if you have no intent to commit murder nor were involved in the murder in any way, you can still be charged with the murder if it occurs.
What is Florida’s Felony Murder Rule?
Sometimes there’s a difference between what the law specifically states and how it is employed by prosecutors. In Florida, felony murder can be employed as aggressively as possible. Even an individual who loans a car to someone who intends to commit a burglary can be charged with murder if someone dies during the home invasion.
The case above shows just how far the felony murder can be taken, and it carries with it the full sentence of first or second-degree murder, depending on the circumstances. That means defendants will often find themselves staring down the barrel of a death penalty conviction or life imprisonment for a death they had no hand in causing.
Do You Need a Top-Quality Criminal Defense Attorney?
If you do, please contact the Skier Law Firm, P.A of West Palm Beach. We handle high-profile murder cases and routine DWI offenses and we’ll ensure you get the best defense possible.