Phoenix Criminal Law News - Find a Phoenix Criminal Attorney

Defining Homicide: The Felony Murder Rule

Homicide laws make it illegal to kill another human being in almost every circumstance, whether it's intentional, reckless, or even unintended. The crimes associated with that are murder, manslaughter, and felony murder respectively.

While the first two categories are much more well known, felony murder is the weird cousin that everyone forgets about. But in Arizona it's still against the law.

Originally an uncodified part of common law (i.e., enforced by courts, not via legislation), Arizona law now classifies felony murder as a form of first-degree murder. But what is it exactly?

Felony murder punishes a defendant who kills someone during the commission of a dangerous felony. That person is then charged with murder.

First degree murder generally applies to situations in which the defendant intended to kill and the homicide was premeditated.

But in felony murder, the defendant didn't intend to kill the victim. Rather, the death occurred during or as a result of the defendant's other crime. The planning and intent to commit the felony is transferred to the murder charge.

In Arizona, the charge can apply in a wide variety of felony charges that are considered dangerous. That includes sexual crimes, drug offenses, kidnapping, kidnapping, rape, arson, burglary, and robbery, among others. If someone dies during the commission of one of those crimes, the defendant could be charged with murder.

It makes sense in the context of the overall purpose of the legal system. Despite what you might think, laws are generally designed to keep the public safe. They're aimed at discouraging harmful actions by making the consequences too unpleasant to risk.

Homicide is a complicated category of crime and felony murder is just one part of it. Curious about other crimes and their definitions? Join the conversation at our FindLaw Answers Forum.

Related Resources: