Essay On Criminal Law

1674 words - 7 pages

Felony murder, defined in the United States Model Penal Code, is a legal rule that further elaborates on the given definition of murder. The rule comes into play when an individual enacts a specific form of a felony, in which another person dies in the progression of the said events. The rule further states that the defendant is still liable for the death of a person, may it be intentional or unintentional. Although that is the national definition of the rule, states across the United States have adopted their own definition of felony murder; while also adding several aspects that further define what felony murder is.

The state of New York adopted the definition of felony murder under the state's Laws of 1860 (Arent & MacDonald, 1935, p. 292). Arent & Macdonald (1935) further wrote that New York's statute divides felony murders into two categories; first and second-degree (p. 292). New York originally defined a first-degree felony murder as "All murder which shall be perpetrated by means of premeditated killing [] or which shall be committed in the perpetration or the attempt to perpetrate any arson, rape, robbery or burglary, or any attempt to escape from imprisonment" (Arent & MacDonald, 1935, p. 292); while any murders not mentioned shall be classified as second-degree murder. Although, when the Penal Code of 1881 was passed with the addition of the Laws of 1887, statutes regarding felony murders changed. The Penal Code states that "the killing of a human being unless it is excusable or justifiable, is murder in the first degree" (Arent & MacDonald, 1935, p. 293) if it was committed under any of these conditions.

The first condition is if the action was "deliberate and premeditated design to affect the death of the person killed" (N. Y. Penal Law 1044). The second condition, according to Penal Law 1044, is that if the act is inherently dangerous or without regard for human life; but without any removing [] rail, or by any other interference [which] injures any car [] while moving upon any railway in this State [road], whether operated by steam, electricity or other motive power, as to thereby premeditation to kill an individual. Another condition is if the action was committed along with arson in the first degree (N. Y. Penal Law 1044). Lastly, the N. Y. Penal Law 1044 defines "A person who willfully, by cause the death of a human being, is guilty of murder in the first degree, and punishable accordingly." These four conditions help the state of New York distinguish whether a case has felony murder in the first or second degree.

In addition to these four conditions, the state of New York requires the courts to prove certain elements beyond a reasonable doubt. For example, the court must establish that the felony act was either violent or non-violent in order for the felony murder rule to be in effect if someone died (N. Y. Penal Law 1044). Secondly, according to Arent & MacDonald (1935), the courts specified that condition ...

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