The criminal justice system is often complex. For example, some people can find themselves charged with felony murder even if they were not directly involved in a person’s death. In fact, 45 states have laws that allow someone to be charged with murder without actually killing someone. Though many states have recently weakened statutes that allow this, Missouri is not one of them.
In Missouri, anyone charged with a felony that is connected to a person’s death could find him or herself charged with felony murder, regardless of the seriousness of the initial charge. For example, if a pedestrian is struck by a police vehicle while the officer is in pursuit of a fleeing suspect, the suspect could be charged with felony murder. The charge is popular in Missouri, with over 151 people charged with it from Jan. 2017 to Nov. 2018.
Opponents of the practice claim that the ability to add it results in serious charges against those who never intended for someone to be killed. They further argue that this mechanism allows police officers to respond with excessive force while putting the blame on someone else. According to one law professor, prosecutors will sometimes use the charge to convince a defendant to accept a plea deal. While one former prosecutor concurs that it could ultimately be added to a person accused of writing a bad check, for example, he argues that it is intended as deterrent to prevent people from participating in a group crime, such as a robbery.
Unfortunately, a felony murder conviction carries stiff consequences. In fact, sentences range from 10 years in prison to life. Before the prisoner can be considered for parole, 85 percent of the sentence must be served. For those facing such accusations in Missouri, a lack of knowledge regarding the criminal justice system can ultimately be detrimental. As such, many defendants want an experienced criminal defense attorney fighting for them.