Criminal Law


Common Law

At common law, murder is defined as the unlawful killing of another with malice aforethought.

There are four types of common law murder:

  • Intent to kill murder
    • Willful and premeditated
    • Only type to require intentional malice
  • Grievous bodily harm murder
    • If you only intended to cause grievous bodily harm but actually killed him, then that's still murder.
  • Depraved heart murder
  • Felony Murder

    The felony murder rule states one who commits one of the jurisdiction's specified felonies which results in someone's death is guilty of murder.

    Typically, this list includes arson, burglary, rape, and robbery.

    The felony murder rule does have three notable limiting requirements:

    1. Independent Felony

      To trigger the felony murder rule, a felony must be independent from the death caused.

      This is often assessed by asking if the felony would merge into a murder charge because it is a lesser-included charge. If so, it is not independent.

      As an example, an assault that results in a death is not independent. A defendant cannot be convicted of both assault and murder for the same act. In contrast, rape never merges into murder, so the independent felony rule would never apply in such cases.

    2. Inherently Dangerous Felony

      For a felony to trigger the felony murder rule, it must be "inherently dangerous" to human life.

    3. In Furtherance of a Felony

      The killing cannot be too remote from the felony. It must be performed "in furtherance of" the felony.

      Evasion of law enforcement after a crime is usually considered part of the crime's commission.

Model Penal Code

The Model Penal Code defines murder as causing the death of another human being purposely, knowingly, or with extreme recklessness.

Purposely or knowingly is a comparable standard involved in intent to kill murder.

Extreme recklessness basically includes grievous bodily harm murder and depraved heart murder. It is when a person kills another by consciously disregarding a substantial and unjustifiable risk to human life when the risk of death is great.

The Model Penal Code does not exactly follow the felony murder rule but does not eliminate the concept. It creates a rebuttable presumption that killings which occur during the commission of listed dangerous felonies show extreme recklessness.