When someone causes the death of another human being, there are several different types of crimes one may be charged with. Different circumstances surrounding a death can dictate charges as serious as first-degree murder or something less serious, such as second-degree murder or manslaughter. One form of first-degree murder is something referred to as “felony murder” under the common law.
Understanding Felony Murder
In felony murder cases, there is no requirement the person meant to kill anyone. In fact, the public policy behind the felony murder rule is to encourage people who are committing crimes to do so without endangering the lives of others. When someone causes an unintentional death during the course of committing certain felonies, this is felony murder in Rhode Island.
Felonies that Can Lead to Felony Murder Charges
Not all felonies are considered “qualifying offenses” for the felony murder rule. Each state is free to make their own determination of which felonies may qualify. In Rhode Island, the felonies that qualify include the following:
- Sexual assault
- Child molestation
- Breaking and entering
- Felony manufacture, sale, delivery, or other distribution of a controlled substance in violation of law.
In some cases, such as with arson, only certain types of arson qualify for felony murder charges. In every case, a qualified criminal defense attorney should review the charges carefully. In part, this is to assure themselves the government properly and legally charged out the case.
Conduct that May Qualify for Felony Murder Charges
In felony murder cases, if someone dies during the commission of one of the felonies listed above, this is felony murder. However, deaths that occur during the attempted perpetration of any of the above-listed crimes also constitute felony murder.
For example, imagine a kidnapping where someone intends to forcibly confine someone against their will. If, while in the care of the kidnapper, the person dies, this would constitute felony murder. However, if the person planning the kidnapping is attempting to force the victim into their car when the person has not yet been confined, and the person dies, this too constitutes felony murder under the laws of Rhode Island.
If You Are Charged with a Crime
If you are charged with a crime, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent you. Murder and manslaughter cases, in particular, require experience, attention to detail, a solid understanding of both case law and Rhode Island statutes, as well as an ability to recognize any constitutional issues that may have a bearing on the case. The Law Offices of Kensley R. Barrett, Esq. offer just such representation. First-degree murder charges can come with a life sentence without the possibility of parole. Felony murder charges can be complicated and require legal review. Let us put our experience to work for you. Call us today at (401) 380-6724.