What is New York's Felony Murder Rule?

It can happen in a heartbeat.

Someone sets out to commit a robbery. Just a robbery. Meanwhile, an accomplice gets spooked. Someone gets shot. Someone dies.

Now the first robber is sitting in jail, and has been charged with both robbery and murder. What just happened?

What happened is the first robber has run afoul of New York’s Felony Murder Rule, which says if someone dies while you’re committing a crime, because you’re committing a crime, you’re guilty of second-degree murder.

New York isn’t the only state with such a rule, which stretches all the way back to laws crafted in England, in 1536.

Of course, we’ve seen this rule impact people who didn’t even know a crime was about to happen. In another state, one defendant was convicted under the felony murder rule for a crime committed while he was sleeping in his bed. The reason? He lent his car to a roommate, who used it to commit the crime. He had lent the car to his roommate dozens of times before, without incident.

This is a fine example of how a good person could end up running afoul of the law in a way that simply blindsides them. If you find yourself in a similar position you can’t trust sense and sensibility will simply prevail. While New York has generally been reasonable in how it applies this rule, some prosecutors and judges are so eager to appear “tough on crime” they’ll throw the book at anyone they can, whether it makes sense or not.

You need a good lawyer by your side to give yourself a shot at retaining your life and freedom.

It’s not hard to find stories of bad judges right here in our city. Prosecutors aren’t held as accountable as they should be. And our local courts are some of the toughest courts in the nation.

A solid defense is your only hope. You could end up in jail for 20 years to life without ever having done anything other than be at the wrong place and the wrong time.

If you’ve been accused of any form of murder, don’t leave your fate in the hands of a public defender. Reach out to the Greco Neyland legal team for help. If you’re in trouble, contact us any time, even on evenings and weekends. We will take your circumstances seriously, and we will craft the best defense we can to help you navigate this frightening situation.  



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