Felony murder rule (California)

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For the felony murder rule in all U.S. jurisdictions, see felony murder rule.

In the state of California, the common law felony murder rule has been codified in California Penal Code § 189.

First degree murder[edit]

California Penal Code § 189[1] classifies a homicide as first degree murder when it is a murder committed during the commission of one of the following predicate felonies:[2]

  • Arson
  • Rape and other sexual crimes
  • Carjacking
  • Robbery
  • Burglary
  • Mayhem
  • Kidnapping
  • Train wrecking
  • And any homicide committed by intentionally firing a gun from a motor vehicle at a person outside of the motor vehicle with the intention to cause death

First degree murder and negligence[edit]

In March of 2013, the California Supreme Court held in People v. Wilkins ((2013) 56 Cal.4th 333) that a burglary is complete for purposes of the felony murder rule where death resulted from a negligent act committed while actively engaged in a burglary. Wilkins committed a burglary. On the way from the burglary, unsecured items fell from his pickup truck, causing another driver to swerve and become involved in a fatal collision. The Court set aside the conviction, which had been upheld by the Court of Appeals, reaffirming the escape rule in which a defendant is deemed to have completed a burglary when he escapes from the scene, is no longer being chased, and has unchallenged possession of the property.[3]

Second degree murder[edit]

In the case People v. Ford, 60 Cal.2d 772 (1964), the California Supreme Court held that homicide during the commission of a felony can constitute second degree murder if the felony is "inherently dangerous to human life."[4]

In the case People v. Hansen, 9 Cal.4th 300 (1994), the California Supreme Court held that discharging a firearm at an inhabited dwelling is an inherently dangerous felony for the purposes of second degree felony murder.[5]

California courts have also found manufacturing methamphetamine,[6] maliciously burning a car,[7] and possessing a bomb in a residential area [8] to be inherently dangerous felonies.

References[edit]

  1. ^ California Penal Code § 189
  2. ^ McCarthy, K.E. Felony Murder. Connecticut General Assembly Office of Legislative Research, 13 February 2008
  3. ^ Justices Clarify Felony Murder Rule,The Recorder, March 7, 2013
  4. ^ People v. Patterson, 49 Cal.3d 615, 626 (1989)
  5. ^ Bonnie, R.J. et al. Criminal Law, Second Edition. Foundation Press, New York, NY: 2004, p. 865
  6. ^ People v. James (1998) 62 Cal.App.4th 244, 258.
  7. ^ People v. Nichols (1970) 3 Cal.3d 150
  8. ^ People v. Morse (1992) 2 Cal.App.4th 620, 646