What Is The California Felony Murder Rule?
The California felony murder rule says in California that if somebody in the commission of a felony kills another person then they are going to use the felony murder rule in order to charge that person with murder.
If you are charged with a felony murder, you can be looking at significant time in custody, life without the possibility of parole, and you could even be looking at the death penalty depending on the circumstances of your case.
Murder Committed During Commission of a California Felony
A perfect example of the felony murder rule is someone goes to rob a liquor store and the getaway driver waits outside knowing the person has a gun when they go in there to rob the cashier. During the robbery, the cashier pulls out a gun, fires at the robber and kills one of the people inside the store that is being robbed.
The felony murder rule says that even though the person who went in there did not shoot and kill anyone, it was foreseeable that during the robbery someone could have been shot and killed or that the clerk might try and defend himself and the store with a deadly force.
Therefore, the person that went in there is going to be responsible for the death by way of murder of the customer in there.
The driver who is waiting outside in the car who is unarmed, who does not go inside, is also going to be responsible for the death under the felony murder rule because it was foreseeable to them that if they acted as the getaway driver in a robbery that someone could die.
If anyone is charged with felony murder, they obviously want to get the best California criminal defense attorney to defend them because they are looking at a lot of time in prison. It is one of those situations where it is all or nothing and there is no looking back. If they lose, they will never come out of prison again.
Is a Murder Or Manslaughter Charge a Federal or State Level Crime?
Cases can be prosecuted at the state or federal level just depending on the circumstances of the case but murder cases are rarely prosecuted at the federal level.
The only time murder cases are prosecuted at the federal level, or at least a good example of it, would be cases involving a drug cartel or a conspiracy of gang members who are involved in RICO charges and they kill someone during the course of their conspiracy to move drugs and make money.
Also, killing a witness to a case, either a federal case or a state case, could be prosecuted at the federal level.
The test to be prosecuted at the federal level is basically whether the actions of the person or the crime, the illegal activity, touched interstate commerce. If it did, then depending on which jurisdiction federal has control over that crime, it could be prosecuted there.
The state-level prosecutes murder cases all the time. Los Angeles County is divided up into jurisdictions. Depending on where the killing occurs controls where the case is prosecuted.
If a killing occurs in the San Fernando Valley then if it is in the north end of the Valley, San Fernando will handle it. If it is in the west end of the Valley then the Van Nuys courthouse will handle it.
The only time I have seen them change from that rule in Los Angeles County is if it’s a sophisticated murder that involves a political figure, a star, or an actor, and then they will have it tried in their downtown office.
The perfect example is the O.J. Simpson murder case. The case occurred in Brentwood back in the early 1990s and Brentwood is controlled by Santa Monica. The case should have been tried in the Santa Monica courthouse.
In fact, that is where the civil case was held because of the jurisdiction. Simpson lost in the civil case and was found guilty and ordered to pay thousands of dollars. The head deputy in Los Angeles County decided to move the criminal case to the downtown office, probably because of the press and that is where his office was at the time and where all the main prosecutors were.
The case was tried in Downtown Los Angeles and Simpson was found not guilty. It is a much more conservative jury pool in Santa Monica versus Downtown Los Angeles, where you really do, at least from the defense perspective, get a fair trial and you get jurors from all different walks of life. The felony murder rule was amended in October 2018 and covered under Senate Bill 1437.
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