Many Morristown residents may be familiar with the concept of felony murder because it occasionally comes up in the news and in crime dramas on television. Yet, it’s important to understand how felony murder is distinguished from other kinds of murder and homicide offenses in New Jersey so that, should you face such allegations, you know what you’re up against and how you can defend against them.
Felony murder isn’t just any kind of murder. The “felony” in felony murder refers to a felony different from the felony of murder. Specifically, if a person is in the process of committing certain serious crimes and causes the death of another person, the crime of felony murder may have taken place. Unlike a plain murder charge, it is not necessary to prove that the defendant intended to kill or injure the victim in order for the defendant to be convicted of felony murder. An accidental killing during the commission of some felonies can be enough for a defendant to be convicted of felony murder.
What felonies could give rise to a felony murder charge? In New Jersey, a person who is convicted of any of the following offenses could also face a conviction for felony murder if another person was killed during the commission of the offense: burglary, robbery, arson, kidnapping, sexual assault, criminal escape, escape, terrorism, or carjacking.
One aspect of felony murder important to one’s criminal defense is that conviction of felony murder is not automatic upon conviction of any of the above offenses. The prosecution must also prove that the person who committed the underlying felony also killed the alleged victim during the commission of the felony. This must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt before the prosecution can get a conviction from a jury.