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Published on January 15th, 2014 | by Daniel Perlman


California’s Felony Murder Rules

First Degree Felony Murder

The California Felony Murder rule establishes special laws for a murder committed in the commission of certain felonies. Homicide is classified as first degree murder when the murder is committed during the commission of felonies listed in the statute. Felonies included are arson, rape and other sexual crimes, carjacking, robbery, burglary, mayhem, kidnapping, or train wrecking. “Drive by” shootings common in gang activities also fall under the provisions of the felony murder rule.

California’s felony murder rule also applies to second degree murder

The felony murder rule essentially creates murder liability for individuals or their accomplices who kill another person during the commission of a dangerous felony.

California courts have defined “inherently dangerous” felonies as those which cannot be committed without creating a substantial risk that someone will be killed. There is no established list of inherently dangerous felonies. As a result, the second-degree felony-murder rule is applied on a case-by-case basis.

Under normal California murder rules, you cannot be convicted of murder unless you acted with “malice aforethought” or the intent to kill, or a reckless disregard for human life.

The California felony-murder rule allows a defendant to face murder charges…and possibly a murder conviction…even if the prosecutor cannot show that he or she acted with malice, as long as he or she killed someone in connection with the intentional commission of a felony.

Any death that is logically related to the felony will suffice

Under California law; there is no requirement that you kill the victim in furtherance of the underlying felony. Any death that is logically related to the felony will suffice, regardless of whether it was intentional, accidental, or negligent. Unforeseeable deaths can subject you to murder charges, so long as there is more than a mere coincidence between the time and place of the murder and the other felony.

Legal defenses to a murder charges include self-defense and “stand your ground laws,” you are under no obligation to “retreat”. Cases of excusable and justifiable homicide in California law often result in dismissal or acquittal. Those facing charges under the felony-murder rule require the services of a highly qualified criminal defense attorney.

Daniel R. Perlman
The Law Offices of Daniel R. Perlman

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