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 Meyer Van Severen, S.C. 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 Meyer Van Severen.
Finally, if you’re seeking felony murder (or any criminal or drunk driving) representation, call Meyer Van Severen 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:
- The defendant committed the crime of (name of crime).
- 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.