In Texas the felony murder rule applies in cases where a killing takes place while a person is in the process of committing another felony. In these circumstances the killing is considered to be murder. Felony murder charges may be applied regardless of whether it can be demonstrated that the accused person had intent to commit murder or not.
Felony murder charges are also applicable to all accomplices and can be applied in cases where an accused person had negligible participation or where the person was in flight from a crime. Essentially, if a crime is perpetrated, for example a drive-by shooting, all of those present and consciously taking in the crime, including the non-shooters can be prosecuted for murder.
A burglar whose gun discharges by accidentally, slaying a innocent bystander, can be similarly charged with felony murder. Prison sentences for felony murder can be in range of 5 to 99 years. However as Texas is a state with Capital Punishment a felony murder charge which is recognized as a Capital case, for example killing a police officer, could result in a sentence of execution.
Justification for the Felony Murder Rule
Understanding the Texas Law of Parties
The felony murder rule, also referred to as the law of parties, is justified on the grounds that a perpetrator, who carries out a felony, with intent must be held responsible for any consequences of that felony. If those consequences include causing a death, the intent to commit the felony is also assigned to the act that causes death. The person is held criminally responsible for all the actions.
Drunk Drivers & Felony Murder
In Texas there have been a number of cases where prosecutions against repeat drunk drivers were upgraded from manslaughter to felony murder charges. Normally, Driving While Intoxicated is considered a misdemeanor, however the third DWI conviction is escalated to a felony charge. Therefore a persistent drunk driver can be liable to face a felony murder charge and significantly more prison time.
The Role of a Criminal Lawyer
Murder is the gravest crime on the statute books in Texas. Anyone charged with taking another person’s life in Texas needs to understand fully what defenses are open to them and how to mount a credible defense such as that provide by the Law Office of Sandra J. Oballe. Any perpetrator who has been charged with felony murder or charged with a felony where a death has occurred should lose no time in consulting with a lawyer. The role of a criminal lawyer is to represent the best interest of the client at all times. A criminal lawyer may be able to work with the prosecution to ensure that felony murder rule does not apply in the circumstances and negotiate so that murder charges are not applied. The attorney will naturally be familiar with the Texas penal code and will be in a position to offer advice and if necessary to prepare and mount a defense in court.