The Felony Murder Rule

Prison BarsHow can someone end up in jail for the rest of his life just for loaning his car to a friend?

Only in the United States of America –  and there, not even in every state – does the law allow the Government to hold anyone involved in a felony responsible for a murder committed by one of his co-conspirators. In the case of Ryan Holle, one of his co-conspirators killed someone during the commission of a felony, robbery. Ryan loaned his vehicle to a friend that night, and his ride ended up being the getaway car.

New York Times: Serving Life for Providing Car to Killers

Ryan was offered a 10-year sentence. He knew he was innocent and went to trial. He was convicted and sentenced to life without parole.

In Pennsylvania, the Felony Murder Rule is codified at 18 Pa.C.S.A. §2502(b), and states that:

[c]riminal homicide constitutes murder of the second degree when it is committed while defendant was engaged as a principal or an accomplice in the perpetration of a felony.

It then defines “perpetration of a felony” at §2502(d):

The act of the defendant in engaging in or being an accomplice in the commission of, or an attempt to commit, or flight after committing, or attempting to commit robbery, rape, or deviate sexual intercourse by force or threat of force, arson, burglary or kidnapping.

As you can see, Pennsylvania has a rather narrow version of the Felony Murder Rule. It is still conceivable, however, that a future person in Ryan Holle’s position could find himself charged with Murder under similar circumstances.

In my view, the Felony Murder Rule is incompatible with justice and should be discarded as inimical to a system of justice worthy of an advanced civilization.

If you are charged with a crime and have co-defendants, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney on your side. Your co-defendants already involved you in their crime. Don’t let them take you down with them. Call the Law Office of Justin P. Miller today for a free consultation.