Georgia has several laws regarding homicide – the killing of another person. There are, however, many subtle nuances and distinctions separating murder, second degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, and felony murder from each other. This article aims to explore the offense of felony murder, limitations on prosecution, and punishment if convicted.

The Offense

Under O.C.G.A. § 16-5-1(c), a person commits the offense of felony murder when, in the commission of a felony, he or she causes the death of another human being irrespective of malice.

Intent

“Malice” required for malice murder conviction consists of intent to kill and lack of provocation or justification. In the context of the statute on murder, a specific intent to kill is “express malice,” whereas an intent to commit acts with such a reckless disregard for human life as to show an abandoned and malignant heart amounts to “implied malice.” But, in felony murder, malice aforethought is implied by the intent to commit the underlying felony. Premeditation and/or motive is not an element of murder in Georgia.

Underlying Felony

The underlying felony for a felony murder conviction must be inherently dangerous to human life; for a felony to be considered inherently dangerous, it must be dangerous per se, or it must by its circumstances create a foreseeable risk of death. Examples include but are not limited to: robbery, rape, kidnapping, felony fleeing, burglary, arson, firearms offenses, narcotics offenses, and aggravated assault. In determining whether a felony is inherently dangerous, the court does not necessarily consider the elements of the felony in the abstract, but instead considers the circumstances under which the felony was committed.

Causation

To support conviction for felony murder, the State has to show that defendant’s commission of the alleged predicate felonies was a proximate cause of victim’s death. Proximate causation exists if the felony the defendant committed directly and materially contributed to the happening of a subsequent accruing immediate cause of death, or if the homicide was committed within the res gestae of the felony and is one of the incidental, probable consequences of the execution of the design to commit the predicate felony. Hood v. State, 303 Ga. 420 (2018).

Punishment

In Georgia, a felony murder conviction results in either life in prison (with or without parole) or the death penalty.

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If you or a loved one is facing criminal prosecution, please contact our office today at 404-581-0999 for a free consultation. Our firm has specialized knowledge and experience in handling criminal cases in various jurisdictions across Georgia.