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What is the Felony Murder Rule?

One definition of murder under Texas Penal Code § 19.02 is when a person “commits or attempts to commit felony, other than manslaughter, and in the course of and furtherance of the commission or attempt, or in immediate flight from the commission or attempt, he commits or attempts to commit an act clearly dangerous to human life that causes the death of an individual.” Under the felony murder rule, then, if individuals participate in a felony offense that results in a death, the death is considered to be a murder. This is the case even if an individual only had minimal involvement in the felony offense or if the individual had no intent to kill anyone in committing the offense.

 

What is the Felony Murder Rule?

The difference between the definitions of felony murder and murder is one of intent. All other definitions of murder require that the person specifically intend to kill someone. In a felony murder situation, however, there need be no intent. In fact, in many cases, the persons involved only had the intent to commit the underlying felony offense, not the murder. Nonetheless, a person charged with felony murder can face the same penalties as those charged with murder under another section of the murder statute.

A good example of where the felony murder rule might apply is in the case of a person who has multiple DWI convictions. For a third or subsequent DWI charge, the charge becomes a felony rather than a misdemeanor. If this person causes a fatal accident during a subsequent DWI, he or she could be charged with felony murder. Likewise, if a driver commits DWI with a passenger in the vehicle who is under the age of 15, then the offense is also a felony. Again, if the passenger dies or another person dies in an accident caused by the intoxicated driver, the driver could face felony murder charges.

If you or a family member is facing any type of criminal charges, we may be able to help. As experienced Texas criminal defense attorneys, we have the knowledge needed to help you navigate through often-complex criminal proceedings. Call us today at (512) 474-4445 and schedule an appointment with one of our criminal defense lawyers and learn how we can assist you.

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