Felony murder occurs when a person is killed during the commission of certain predicate felony offenses (listed below). Conviction for felony murder requires a jury to find that a person is guilty of the underlying predicate felony and that an individual died in connection with the commission of the felony. If an individual is found guilty of felony murder they have committed a first degree criminal violation. First degree criminal homicide (aka Felony Murder) is punishable by 30 years in prison before parole eligibility. There are certain defenses to felony murder, discussed in detail below. Additionally, only certain felonies can serve as the underlying predicate offense, a death occurring during some other felony will not suffice for a felony murder/1st degree criminal homicide charge.
The lawyers at Law Offices of Jonathan F. Marshall are former prosecutors and highly skilled litigators that are ready to defend your felony murder offense. We have over 100 years of combined experience to utilize in your defense. Contact our Toms River Office if you or a loved one has been charged with felony murder in Toms River, Seaside Heights, Stafford, Lacey, Little Egg Harbor or another municipality in Ocean County. An attorney is available 24/7 at (732) 286-6500.Offenses That Fall Under the Felony Murder Law
There are eight (8) crimes that can trigger this form of murder charge. The offenses include:
- Sexual assault
- Criminal escape
This list of underlying felony offenses significantly narrows the scope of Felony Murder in New Jersey. This is consistent with the legislative and judicial actions of many states that have moved to limit the application of first degree homicide to the most serious felonies.Elements of the Offense of First Degree Criminal Homicide (i.e. Felony Murder)
In order for the prosecutor to prove an individual guilty of felony murder, they must prove each of the following elements beyond reasonable doubt:
- The defendant committed, attempted to commit, or was engaged in flight from;
- An offense falling under the felony murder law (see charges above);
- A finding of guilty by plea or trial to that offense; and
- A person was killed during the course of commission, attempt or flight from the offense.
As mentioned above, the felony being committed must be one of the offenses listed above. All other felonies, such as drug trafficking or distribution, cannot serve as an underlying felony for a felony murder charge. Additionally, the death must occur in close proximity, in both time and place, to where the underlying felony occurred. If the death was substantially removed from the felony then a felony murder charge will not stand. The court must find that the felony and related death were part of one continuous transaction. Concealment efforts after a crime are considered part of the same transaction as the felony. In addition, accomplice liability applies to felony murder charges. For example, if four men rob a convenience store and one of the men kills the clerk, all four accomplices can be charged and convicted of felony murder. Similarly, if a bystander is killed by a non-criminal actor attempting to thwart the crime, then it is possible that the criminal actors can be charged with felony murder. New Jersey, however, prohibits prosecution for felony murder when the person killed is a criminal associate. For example, if police shoot and kill one of two individuals involved in a robbery, the accomplice cannot be charged with felony murder.Penalties & Sentencing in Felony Murder Cases
Felony Murder is a serious form of criminal homicide that constitutes “murder.” Murder is a first degree offense and it carries a mandatory minimum sentence. Conviction for felony murder entails a mandatory 30 years in prison without the possibility of parole. Juries are permitted to sentence an individual to life in prison without the eligibility of parole. If the victim of the felony murder is a police officer acting in his official capacity then felony murder carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison.Lakewood NJ Murder Attorneys
Homicides are just about the most serious offenses you can face in Ocean County, especially the variety discussed here, felony murder. Common sense should tell you that this charge requires the immediate assistance of an attorney and preferably one with considerable criminal experience. This is precisely what you will secure when you call our Toms River firm about a felony murder offense arising in Lakewood, Jackson, Manchester, Berkeley, Brick or another municipality. Our Lakewood NJ Murder Attorneys include former prosecutors who are prepared to fight in order to achieve the most favorable outcome possible on your charge. Call us without delay at (732) 286-6500 for a free consultation.