Did you know that you can be charged with murder even if you never intended to take someone’s life? Under North Carolina’s felony murder rule, prosecutors can pursue murder charges if you participate in a crime that results in another person’s death—even if you never had any desire or intention to hurt someone. What’s more, felony murder is punished exactly the same as other first-degree murders—by life in prison or death.
At the Olsinski Law Firm, PLLC, we’ve assembled a team of skilled criminal defense lawyers who have the knowledge, dedication and passion for justice necessary to defeat charges of this magnitude. We take every homicide case on with the objective of seeing our client walk out of the courthouse at the end of the trial. And while that’s not possible in every case, we are unwaveringly committed to developing a compelling defense no matter the allegations.What is Felony Murder in North Carolina?
In North Carolina, the felony murder doctrine allows for a defendant to be charged with first-degree murder if someone dies during the commission of certain felonies, even if the defendant didn't intend to kill or didn't directly cause the death. Of course, not all felonies can serve as a basis for a felony murder charge. The felonies involved usually must be violent crimes or inherently dangerous.
Under North Carolina General Statutes §14-17, the felonies that can support a felony murder charge include the following:
- Sex offenses,
- Burglary, and
- Felonies involving the use of a deadly weapon.
The key difference between felony murder and other types of murder is that, for felony murder, the prosecution doesn't need to prove the defendant intended to kill or even acted with malice. In other words, the intent to commit the underlying felony is essentially substituted for the intent to kill, which is typically required for a murder conviction.
Additionally, felony murder charges can be brought against you even if you were not the person who committed the killing. This is because anyone who participates in the underlying felony can be charged with murder, even if they weren't the ones to directly cause the death. For example, if two people are robbing a store and one of them shoots and kills a clerk, both individuals can be charged with felony murder, even the one who didn't pull the trigger.Defenses to Felony Murder
As is the case for all other crimes, there are a number of defenses that may apply in a felony murder prosecution. For example, if law enforcement violated your constitutional rights when investigating the allegations against you, any evidence they recovered may be kept out of trial. Additionally, statements you made to detectives without the presence of an attorney can be suppressed if the detective didn’t read you your Miranda warnings.
However, in terms of specific defenses to felony murder, the most common defense involves challenging the prosecution’s evidence that you intended to participate and actually participated in the underlying felony. If your criminal defense attorney can negate this element, the judge or jury cannot convict you of felony murder.Have You Been Charged with a Homicide Crime in North Carolina?
If you were recently arrested and charged with felony murder, having an experienced Charlotte felony murder defense attorney on your side can make the difference in your case. At the Olsinski Law Firm, PLLC, our lawyers are uniquely committed to upholding your constitutional rights and advocating on your behalf—regardless of the nature of the charges against you. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation with one of our Charlotte criminal defense lawyers, give us a call at 704-405-2580. You can also reach our Cabarrus County homicide defense attorneys at 704-918-4747. We represent clients in Charlotte, Concord and Kannapolis, as well as throughout Mecklenburg, Gaston, Iredell, Rowan, and Union Counties.