Felony Murder: When Self Defense is No Defense

gunFirst-degree murder carries the highest sentence of any single crime in all of Illinois and is subject to the mandatory minimum statute. This means that those convicted are almost guaranteed at least a 20-year prison term, and if a gun is used the mandatory minimum jumps to 45 years. Felony murder is a one type of first-degree murder.

If someone dies during the commission of a forcible felony, those committing the felony can be charged with first-degree murder. You can be charged with felony murder even if the person died accidentally or was killed by someone else, as long as a forcible felony was being committed at the time. Illinois prosecutors have even successfully brought felony murder charges in situations where a co-felon was killed by the police. A forcible felony is defined as sexual assault, robbery, burglary, arson, kidnapping, aggravated battery, and any other felony that involve the use of or threat of physical force or violence.

Self-Defense Claims are Unavailable

Like all criminal charges, you can raise defenses when you are charged with felony murder.  However, those charged with felony murder may not claim self-defense. So, by way of example, if, during a robbery, one robber defends a bystander against another robber and the robber attempting to harm the bystander dies, the robber that defended the bystander can still be charged with felony murder and cannot claim self-defense.

Felony Murder Charges Can Be Brought Under Many Circumstances

If the police arrive and shoot at one of the robbers and accidentally hit an innocent bystander, everyone who committed that robbery could be charged with felony murder. If two people commit the robbery and the police shoot one, the other can be charged with felony murder. Basically, any death of any person in any way related to the forcible felony can result in first-degree murder charges, and self-defense is not available, no matter how the death occurred.  

Although it seems unfair, the legislature has decided that allowing felons to use self-defense as a defense to felony murder would cut against the public policy of discouraging people from committing violent felonies. Self-defense is never available to the one who instigates the confrontation, so any commission of a violent felony is thought to instigate the confrontation that led to the victim’s death.

David Freidberg Law Can Help You

If you have been charged with felony murder, you have options available to you, even if self-defense is not one of them. To be convicted of felony murder, you must have had the intent to commit the underlying felony, whether you intended to kill or not, and if you did not intend to commit the underlying felony, then you are not guilty of felony murder. If you are being charged with felony murder or are worried that you will soon be charged with felony murder, you need to discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Call or email today for a no-obligation consultation.