AV Preeminent
The Florida Bar

Felony Murder Laws in Florida Highly Criticized and Misunderstood

Florida adheres to felony murder rule despite other states in our nation having declared it unconstitutional. Most of our laws derive from governing rules considered to be inherent in nature hundreds of years ago. This system of criminal law was known as common-law which still stands as the foundation of our Florida criminal justice system. Together with modern criminal statutes, acts made criminal under Florida state law, regardless of their roots are often in sharp contrast to those of our neighboring states.

The highly criticized felony murder doctrine is one such criminal law strictly punished throughout the state. Although a rare offense due to its very nature, in recent years, this high level felony and accompanying prosecution has seemed to target children over the last decade… young ones. See change.org

While Broward Schools Bullying Laws and public service announcements warning of the dangers of same are the main focus of influencers and lawmakers, direct filing children into the adult prison system seems to just fly undetected.

Felony murder, although classified with other homicide/murder offenses, is not often easily accepted by large numbers of individuals who oppose the law due to its inherent and fundamental differences to that of its general offense class.

That Being the Act of Killing Another Human Being

The primary distinction that is made when evaluating a criminal act and whether it falls within the category of offenses prosecuted as murder in Florida, is the distinction between a felony offense and that of a misdemeanor. Misdemeanor crimes are much lower in classification and severity then felony offenses. Misdemeanor crimes include but are not limited to:  shoplifting, DUI, some domestic violence cases, vandalism, criminal mischief, disorderly conduct, possession of marijuana, resisting arrest without violence and trespassing.

If you are confused about what actually constitutes felony murder in Florida, you are not alone. William Moore, a criminal defense attorney who has worked on several felony murder cases over the years claims that this is due to the fact that our felony murder statutes do not require any intentional act that is directly or indirectly aimed at even injuring another person. To further complicate matters, claims Moore, is the fact that under our current set of laws defendants can be charged with this most severe crime despite there being no act of negligence, carelessness, aggression, violence or intended victim. Little more than evidence of an act in furtherance of a felony during which time another individual lost their life is needed to proceed with charges that result in one’s spending the rest of their life in prison if convicted. Unless of course that conviction comes at a time in the perpetrators early years of life.

Fortunately, felony murder statute in Florida have a habit of landing smack dab on the heads of our youth. In 2011 some of the youngest individuals to ever be prosecuted with murder made their way onto the criminal courtroom stage. In response to family members and activists of these young condemned kids, lawmakers have done little if anything following the vast dissemination of knowledge, opinions and criticisms regarding this inherently unfair ancient rule. The countless websites and petitions have seem to have little effect on our stern criminal justice process. Other states in the nation however, have swiftly declared similar statutes unconstitutional. Other countries such as Germany and France never adopted such statutes even during the dark ages. As for homeland, England one followed a similar set of felony murder laws however has long since abolished them.

This is one of those tricky areas when it comes to criminal prosecution and defense. What would be hard-pressed to say that an individual who intentionall y seeks out and commits a felony resulting in someone’s being injured or killed should be treated the same way as the perpetrator of a crime which resulted in no injury.

The thing that is important to remember about this criminal statute as opposed to other homicide related offenses is that the focus is on the qualifying criminal activity and that was the commission of a felony by the perpetrator.  If a prohibited act contains the necessary elements to bring charges of enhanced or felony crimes, felony murder charges may be filed if someone was killed or died during the commission of that underlying offense.  That is where all of the effort from a law-enforcement standpoint is focused from the onset.  Unfortunately for the perpetrators, this is not a difficult issue to determine. While there are technically several classifications of crimes under our Florida criminal justice system, the most basic classification is that of misdemeanor and felony.

See above for examples of misdemeanor offenses.

Felony offenses include but are not limited to: battery on a law enforcement officer, aggravated battery, crimes involving firearms most drug crimes including possession of cocaine, possession of heroin and possessing prescription medication without a valid prescription, fraud and white-collar crime, sex crimes, sexual assault, rape, possession of child pornography, kidnapping, false imprisonment and more complex crimes such as the use of a computer or Internet to cure a meeting with a child for purposes of obtaining sex.

Florida Felony Murder Statues Illogical?

A review of over 300 felony murder cases throughout Florida indicated a strong pattern of conduct that in no way was tentative caused the injury or death of another whatsoever. The very last letter of the law seems to exclude all of the foundations that behaviors warranting punishment are founded upon.

It is not required that a person charged with felony murder acted recklessly, or wanton disregard or intended anything other than permission of separate and distinct crime.

Attorney William Moore has written extensively on similar Florida laws and social misconceptions with regard to condemned acts that are completely and utterly devoid of criminal intent.

Do you need to speak with a felony crime attorney about your case?  Our criminal defense team  has helped thousands of individuals accused of committing crimes in Broward County for the last 20 years. Criminal defense attorney William Moore has built a reputation in South Florida since the mid-90s through consistent criminal trial litigation and a 100% focus on refining the art of criminal defense. Additionally, attorney Moore lectures on criminal defense strategy and tactical consideration. William Moore is known for his somewhat outspoken approach to the illogical implementation of certain gateway crimes such as felony murder, certain sex crimes and DUI manslaughter to name a few. For information about how to obtain either written, audio or video lectures and commentary specific to  Florida’s often in adequate approach to criminal justice along with the erosion of our constitutional rights with regard to certain Florida criminal offenses contact our office directly.

We see these most challenging issues confronted by prosecutors and criminal defense attorneys alike in the DUI manslaughter arena. These cases are so troubling in that one family sits with a prosecutor and has lost a child while another family supports their son or daughter who used the terrible misjudgment after having a drink or two and got behind the wheel.

Many people don’t realize but a DUI resulting in death generally winds up being a six year and up sentence for negotiated cases. Meaning that the case is not taken to trial by the defendant. When we deal with our Florida kids who used poor judgment we add another great loss onto an arty tragic event.

It doesn’t end there according to criminal defense lawyers that we spoke to in the Broward County area. The social stigma and feelings of the general public are very strong when it comes to hurting another while operating a motor vehicle despite being impaired. College age convicts and younger never quite recover according to one Broward County DUI court judge.

This is another example of extreme penalties for behavior that obviously lacks the requisite criminal intent toward such sanction. Most people think nothing of their neighbor uncle who has one too many and drives home. Everyone wakes up the next day and little is said about it if anything. Take that same neighbor or uncle following an accident where there are signs of impairment and the general public becomes consumed with the very primitive and illogical drive to condemn the same act.

Societal problems such as these really shed light on how far modern civilization has to go before we are even able to understand the most common problems that we all deal with on a daily basis.

Attorney William Moore maintains a criminal law firm in Broward County Florida where he has practiced for the last 20 years. Attorney Moore built a reputation in South Florida for his work defending hundreds if not thousands of DUI defense cases, focusing on the vast and complex method that Florida both prosecutors and defense driving under the influence charges. Attorney William Moore, to date has tried over 200 criminal DUI jury trials successfully. In recent years, attorney Moore has focused on defending drug crime in the wake of South Florida’s prescription medication epidemic and pain clinic infestation.

William Moore can be reached for comment by contacting:

William Moore Criminal Defense Attorneys
110 SE 6th St #1713
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301
(954) 523-5333

Recently a question was submitted to our criminal defense firm in Broward County specific to Florida law which makes it a first-degree felony whereby a death occurs during the commission of a felony.


Can someone be charged under Florida’s L any murder statute when a death occurred during but not because of another’s commission of a misdemeanor offense. Does the term felony in felony murder mean that the crime had to be a felony?  If so does the death have to be related to the furtherance of that criminal act?  the specific facts of the case that I’m asking about involve the theft of an item valued at under $300. In fact the fair market value of the stolen item in question was only $75 at best. In all actuality the total loss came to less than $30 because the suspect dispensed the contents of said stolen item in a neighboring apartment complex ( fire extinguisher).  The cleanup required to return the stairwell of the neighboring complex to its original state was somewhere between 150 and $200. How can they add all of this up when the prosecution’s intent is clearly to justify the filing of felony murder charges against my nephew.


I’m sorry to hear that your nephew is facing such serious charges for what is so often nothing more than an active poor judgment. Based on my experience, most people do not realize that Florida has enacted specific criminal statutes with respect to enumerated items such as fire extinguishers.  in your nephew’s case the fair market value of the fire extinguisher and cleanup is not at issue rather is the fact that theft of a fire extinguisher is classified as a felony offense regardless of how much the particular extinguisher cost the apartment complex. These laws were enacted for the sole purpose of ensuring the safety of individuals living in multi single family home residences such as duplexes and apartment buildings. Specifically the ability to extinguish fire before anyone is injured. I personally have never heard of a case whereby residents suffered injury following a fire that happened to occur immediately after one of the neighborhood kids stole a fire extinguisher. Unfortunately all of our Florida laws don’t make sense in practical application despite lawmakers having good intentions.

Being the theft of a fire extinguisher is a felony offense, this would qualify… just barely.

I’m surprised to learn that prosecutors are actually seeking felony murder charges on this, however, I did not see any information about what caused injury or death to another resident if that’s even how this fact pattern played out.

Nonetheless, if someone lost their life due to the dispensing of chemicals from a fire extinguisher that had just been stolen, I am afraid that Florida law would allow for prosecution under felony murder.

I would like more information about this case so I can give you better advice and evaluation of the charges that your nephew may face. If you are interested in having me look into this further please email William Moore at wrdefense.com

please include any and all police reports, statements and information that you may have regarding this case. Also let me know your nephew’s  exact age. I will get back with you as quickly as possible once I receive information.

William Moore

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