What is New York’s Felony Murder Rule?
Felony murder is one of the most serious criminal charges you can face in the State of New York. In some cases, the penalty for a felony murder conviction is life without parole. If you’re charged with a felony murder, you must consult a Nassau County felony murder attorney at once.
If – for any reason – you are charged with a felony murder in New York, what are your legal rights? Will there be any way for you to avoid a conviction and a prison sentence? How will a Nassau County felony murder lawyer defend you against a felony murder charge?
If you’ll continue to read this short discussion about felony murder, you’ll find the answers, and you’ll also learn what defenses may be offered if you’re charged with a felony murder in Nassau County or anywhere in the State of New York.
Who May Be Charged With Felony Murder?
According to the Marshall Project, the United States is the only nation that establishes and enforces “felony murder” laws – laws that allow individuals who didn’t actually kill anyone to be charged with and convicted of murder.
Under the laws of New York and many other states, “felony murder” refers to a specific kind of homicide – a murder that happens while the perpetrator is committing or attempting to commit another felony or is in immediate flight from committing or attempting to commit another felony.
Without actually killing anyone, here is how you could be charged with a felony murder. Let’s say that you and an accomplice rob a liquor store, and during the robbery, your accomplice fires a gun at the ceiling to frighten the cashier. The bullet ricochets, and a customer is killed.
New York law provides for twelve distinct homicide charges. All of these are felony charges. Under the felony murder rule, both you and your accomplice in the liquor store robbery would probably be charged with felony murder, which in most cases is a second-degree murder charge.
When is Felony Murder Charged as First-Degree Murder?
However, if someone is killed intentionally during the commission of another felony – let’s say that your accomplice in the liquor store robbery became impatient and killed the cashier for moving too slowly – the felony murder charge would probably be for first-degree murder.
First-degree felony murder requires a defendant’s intent to kill a non-participant in the crime. The defendant must have personally caused the death or ordered another to do the killing, while second-degree felony murder only requires that the defendant was an accomplice of the killer.
All homicide charges in New York are felony charges that are punishable on conviction with a lengthy prison term. If you’re charged with felony murder on Long Island or in New York City, you must be advised – immediately – and defended by a Nassau County felony murder attorney.
What Felonies Trigger the Felony Murder Rule?
A defendant in New York may be charged with felony murder if someone is killed during (or during the immediate flight from) the commission (or the attempted commission) of any of these felonies:
- arson, burglary, kidnapping, or robbery
- first-degree rape or first-degree criminal sexual act
- first-degree sexual abuse or aggravated sexual abuse
- first-degree escape or second-degree escape
What Are the Defenses Against a Felony Murder Charge?
Because felony murder is a crime that occurs during the commission of another felony, it requires sufficient evidence that the defendant committed the other, original felony in order to also be found guilty of felony murder.
If the other felony was committed by more than one person, and the defendant was not the person who did the killing, a second-degree felony murder defendant may be found not guilty if his or her defense attorney can prove to a jury that the defendant:
- did not in fact solicit, commit, or assist in the murder
- carried no lethal weapon
- had no cause to believe an accomplice was carrying a lethal weapon
- had no cause to believe an accomplice would engage in behavior leading to a murder
If You Are Charged With Felony Murder, What Are Your Rights?
A murder charge is the most serious charge that the state can bring against a criminal defendant. If you are charged with first- or second-degree felony murder, you have the legal right to have your lawyer present during a police interrogation or a lineup.
Whether or not the police read your rights, you have a right to remain silent, and anything you say could be used against you. Simply tell the police something like, “I would prefer not to answer questions and speak to my lawyer,” and then say no more.
How Can a Felony Murder Attorney Help You?
If you are charged with a felony murder, a Nassau County felony murder lawyer will work on your behalf by:
- gathering and reviewing the evidence
- interviewing and questioning the witnesses
- negotiating with the prosecutor
- filing motions to suppress evidence or to dismiss the case against you
- keeping you informed as the case moves forward
Your lawyer may negotiate a plea deal on your behalf. If you accept a plea agreement, you would plead guilty to a lesser charge and serve a lesser sentence. Do not try to negotiate a plea deal on your own, and discuss any plea deal offer with your lawyer before you accept or reject it.
Maybe someone else committed the original felony and the murder, and you’ve been misidentified. Either way, you should insist on a jury trial where your lawyer will explain what happened and tell the jurors why you should be acquitted.
How Can You Select the Right Defense Lawyer?
This can’t be emphasized enough: If you’re charged with a felony murder on Long Island or in Nassau County, you must be defended by a lawyer who has handled comparable cases and knows how to bring your own case to its best possible outcome.
Award-winning Nassau County criminal defense attorney Gianni Karmily will handle your felony murder defense with dedication, diligence, and determination. He represents clients across Long Island and throughout New York City, and he is ready to represent you.
If you are charged with felony murder or with any other felony charge on Long Island or in Nassau County, now or in the future, reach out promptly to the Law Firm of Gianni Karmily by calling 516-630-3405.