The Felony Murder Rule was adopted by the United States in the Eighteenth Century. It originally dates back to England from the Twelfth Century. The definition of felony murder rule is a doctrine used in many common law jurisdictions which broadens the crime of murder in two different ways.
The first type of felony murder is when the offender kills accidentally or without specific intent to kill while committing a felony. The second, being anyone whom participates in a felony that causes death during or because of the crime they committed - what normally would be charged as manslaughter is moved up to murder.
Examples of Felony Murder
Some examples of the felony murder rule are a crime is punishable not based on the intent but the action which took place. The felony murder rule holds the perpetrator accountable for aggravated or first degree murder if they are found to be involved in a serious felony during which time another person dies as a result of the felony. Even if a person is not directly the cause of the person's death the felony murder rule still applies.
If you have a gang drive by shooting where there were several people involved (who were in the vehicle) but only two were shooting all can be charged with and found guilty for murder. This rule is intended to deter violent crimes which can cause death and each person involved can be charged with murder, not just the members that pulled the trigger.
Another example which could be construed as more innocent and accidental yet charged the same under the Felony Murder Rule would be someone trespassing. Let's say you go to the local gravel pits at the base of a mountain to target shoot. If there is a hiker up behind where you are shooting and you accidentally shoot and kill them unintentionally, the felony murder rule still applies.
Model Penal Code
The model penal code is said to be one of the most important developments in American law. It was developed in 1962 and started as a way to standardize and organize the criminal codes each state utilizes. The model penal code is followed by over two-thirds of the states. After it was enacted many stated rewrote many of their laws. The American Law Institute's Model Penal Code lists kidnapping, burglary, felonious escapes, arson, rape, robbery, and forcible sexual intercourse as offenses under the felony murder rule. Federal law specifies additional crimes which include but are not limited to carjacking and terrorism as felony murder rule offenses.
States may vary on the definition and there interpretation of the Felony Murder Rule. Felony Murder Rule is usually charged the same as premeditated which is a first degree murder and can entail the death sentence. If you are faced with this situation it is advised to consult a knowledgeable attorney who has experience and is proficient with this type of charge. Your freedom is at stake, so it is imperative you make sure to determine if and how the rule is applied in your jurisdiction.