Felony murder adds 15 years to your sentence.  Hire a top criminal defense attorney.

Felony murder might seem like a unique offense, but the idea is certainly straightforward.  The defendant causes the death of another while committing or attempting to commit a felony.  This could seem confusing because not all felonies can lead to a felony murder charge.  We’ll discuss it later, but the charge only occurs along with the commission of certain felonies.

Certainly the addition of 15 years in prison makes clear how serious this offense is.  At Van Severen Law Office we focus on providing clients aggressive, focused criminal defense.  Our criminal defense attorneys have worked on plenty of homicide cases, ranging from second degree reckless homicide all the way up to the most serious first degree intentional homicide.  Additionally, we’ve defended all the underlying felony charges that can lead to felony murder.  No matter the criminal charges you’re facing, you’re in good hands at Van Severen Law Office.

Finally, if you’re seeking felony murder (or any criminal or drunk driving) representation, call Van Severen Law Office immediately.  We certainly answer phones 24/7 at (414) 270-0202.

What is felony murder?

Felony murder is defined in section 940.03 of the Wisconsin Statutes.  That statute indicates:

Whoever causes the death of another human being while committing or attempting to commit a crime specified in s. 940.19, 940.195, 940.20, 940.201, 940.203, 940.225 (1) or (2) (a), 940.30, 940.31, 943.02, 943.10 (2), 943.23 (1g), or 943.32 (2) may be imprisoned for not more than 15 years in excess of the maximum term of imprisonment provided by law for that crime or attempt.

The penalty is 15 years on top of the other felony.  For example, let’s assume the underlying felony charge is for substantial battery.  Substantial battery is a Class I felony and carries with it a maximum penalty of 3.5 years in prison and $10,000.00 in fines.  The maximum penalty is 18.5 years, or the 3.5 plus 15.  For purposes of sentence calculation, the 15 years is a standalone crime.

How does the charge work?

This is where some people seem to become confused about felony murder.  Let’s start by providing the elements of the offense.  Remember, elements are parts of the crime that must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt by the prosecution.  For this example we’ll assume the underying crime completed.  Wisconsin Criminal Jury Instruction 1030 provides:

  1. The defendant committed the crime of (name of crime).
  2. The death of the victim was caused by the commission of the (name of crime).

Firstly, we’d simply add the underlying felony charge to the (name of crime) blank.  And then we’d figure out whether the defendant committed the underlying crime, and whether that crime’s commission caused the death of the victim.  Importantly, while this jury instruction refers to completed offenses, you can be charged for attempted crimes that resulted in the death of the victim.

For example, let’s consider the case of an armed robbery.  Two defendants go to victim and complete the armed robbery.  Victim, in response to the armed robbery, shoots at the defendants but hits a bystander and kills the bystander.  Because the armed robbery caused the bystander to fire at the defendants, the defendants caused the death of the bystander.  Or, by the elements: 1) the defendant committed an armed robbery; and 2) the bystander’s death was caused by the commission of that armed robbery.

In understanding this, the definition of cause is important.  Pursuant to the jury instruction, “cause” means the commission of the crime was a substantial factor in producing the death.

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Which felonies qualify for felony murder?

The numbers in the statute refer to other crimes.  Felony murder is only a crime when the murder happens in connection with one of those offenses.

The offenses include battery, substantial battery, aggravated battery, battery to an unborn child, battery by prisoners, battery or threat to a witness, battery or threat to a judge/prosecutor, law enforcement officer, sexual assault, false imprisonment, kidnapping, arson, burglary, operating a vehicle without owners consent, and armed robbery.

For example, if you’re charged with fleeing or eluding a police officer, and someone dies during the pursuit, you cannot be charged with felony murder.  The reason for this is that the legislature decided that offense should not qualify as felony murder.  That being said, if someone dies during a chase, you’ll certainly be charged with someone like first degree reckless homicide or second degree reckless homicide.

What else is there to know about this offense?

Appellate courts in Wisconsin clarified a few different points regarding felony murder.  Firstly, attempted felony murder does not exist.  In State v. Briggs, 218 Wis. 2d 61, the Court of Appeals of Wisconsin found that an attempt requires intent.  Felony murder itself is complete with intent.  Therefore, even an attempted crime that involves a death qualifies as felony murder.

In State. v. Below, 2011 WI App 64, the Court of Appeals of Wisconsin found that an actors is deemed to have caused the death “if his or her conduct is a substantial factor in bringing about that result.  A substantial factor need not be the sole cause of death for one to be held legally culpable.  Whether an intervening act was negligent, intentional, or legally wrongful is irrelevant.  The state must still prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant’s acts were a substantial factor in producing the death.”

The scene of a murder
Felony murder charges add 15 years to your sentence. Contact Van Severen Law Office for help today. (414) 270-0202

How do we defend my felony murder case?

Homicide cases are all defended differently.  Sometimes a co-actor implicates the defendant.  In other cases, an eye-witness identifies the defendant.  Finally, a murder case might involve circumstantial evidence that points towards the defendant.  No matter the case, things like mistaken identity, police overreaches, and lying witnesses are just a few issues criminal defense attorneys face in murder cases.  Our criminal defense lawyers will dig through your case and figure out the issues.  If we find a motion issue, we’ll file the motion.  If you want to proceed to trial, we’ll go to trial.

Finally, why should I hire Van Severen Law Office for my felony murder case?

Certainly not all criminal defense attorneys are capable of handling a homicide, murder, or manslaughter case.  The criminal defense attorneys at Van Severen Law Office are specialists.  We fight  murder cases.  We handle high profile homicide cases and can handle yours.

Finally, to speak with one of our criminal defense attorneys, call us.  Let’s talk about your case and figure out how we can start fighting it.  At your initial consultation we’ll certainly talk about potential strategy, what happened, and where we suspect your case will go.  We answer phones 24/7 at (414) 270-0202, so give us a call now.

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