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The Felony Murder Rule

The felony murder rule is a legal doctrine that was brought to the United States from Great Britain during the colonial period. It is still a legal doctrine in some common law jurisdictions that is an expansion of the crime of murder.

When an offender kills accidentally or without specific intent to kill, this is usually called manslaughter. Under the federal murder rule, if this accidental death occurs in the course of an applicable felony, what might have been manslaughter becomes murder. In addition, the rule makes any participant in such a felony criminally liable for any deaths that occur during or in furtherance of that felony.

This expansion of the crime of murder leads many to dislike the felony murder rule. When the rule was originally created hundreds of years ago, there were fewer than 10 felonies and all of them resulted in death if convicted. Now, there are hundreds of felonies and yet all of them, in a jurisdiction with the felony murder rule, can become murder if someone dies because of the felony action.

The original idea behind the felony murder rule was that if someone attempts arson and fails, but a person dies during the failed arson, that person should still be held responsible for the death of the individual during the failed commission of a felony.

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If you have been accused of a felony or misdemeanor and are concerned about your case, contact the Appleton criminal defense attorneys of Hart Powell, S.C., SC at 888-565-7597 to discuss your case and to determine the best plan for a successful defense.