Felony Murder Rule in Florida

When one thinks of homicide, one usually conjures up an image of a person lying in wait, with a long-thought-out plan, attacking when the moment is right. This type of deliberate and premeditated homicide is a capital felony in Florida and can lead to either life in prison or to the ultimate capital punishment of death. However, there can be a situation in which a person, while acting in a felonious manner, contributes to the death of another person. If you or a loved one have been arrested for involvement in a capital felony that led to the death of another, please contact West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney William Wallshein for a confidential consultation.

Florida’s Capital Felony List

In Florida, a person may be found guilty of a capital felony when a person dies during the perpetration of any of the following capital felonies:

  • Commercial robbery or home invasion robbery
  • Burglary
  • Kidnapping
  • Fugitive Escape
  • Arson
  • Sexual Assault/Battery
  • An act of terrorism or a felony that furthers terrorism;
  • Unlawful distribution of an illegal drug that leads to the death of the consumer; or
  • Human trafficking; among others.
The Origins of the Felony Murder Rule

Being convicted of the murder of another when your plan involved the commission of a capital felony that did not have the central objective of killing another person is known as the Felony Murder Rule. The Felony Murder Rule is a rather controversial law and not all of the states have espoused it. The felony-murder rule was originally an English common law invention but most European countries have since repealed their laws. What makes the law controversial is the foundational assumption under the law that you can control the actions of others, and therefore you should be punished for not only picking the wrong company but also, not stopping them from committing a bad act that may lead to someone’s death.

The Purpose Behind Felony Murder Rule

In Florida, the felony-murder rule has held and regardless of whether you or a member of your group involved in the felony kills another person, you are still criminally liable for the murder due to your involvement in the capital felony. This is because when you are perpetrating a capital felony, such as arson or home invasion robbery, it is understood that you are involved in a situation that is inherently dangerous and it is the type of activity that it would be reasonably foreseeable to lead to someone’s death.

There is a second purpose for attributing criminal liability to all persons involved in a capital felony: A person may be deterred from a capital crime if he or she is afraid of being convicted of a homicide rather than just a burglary if caught.

Human Trafficking Recently Added to List of Capital Felonies

The list of capital felonies is constantly being updated, with the 2016 Florida legislature recently including onto the list the crime of “human trafficking”. According to the law, when a person is killed during the commission of a crime relating to human trafficking, he or she may be criminally convicted of felony murder. This is to create a wider net by which to cast over any person who is involved in human trafficking and to punish even those persons who are only tangentially involved.

Please contact West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney William Wallshein for a confidential consultation.