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Are There Potential Upcoming Changes To The Felony Murder Rule In California?

Are There Potential Upcoming Changes To The Felony Murder Rule In California?

Andrew Dósa – Criminal Defense Attorney – Alameda County, CA

“So, Ray, we had talked earlier about changes in the law. I want to say that there have been certain legal traditions that are vulnerable to change now. For example, the Felony Murder Rule exists. This is the scenario where two people commit a crime, or three or four or five. The leaders of the gang commit the crime, and one of the persons is sitting out in the car as a getaway driver. And that person joins in with these crimes, saying ‘I agree, I’ll join you but we have to agree there will be no violence and no one gets shot.’ And something happens inside the house and someone gets shot, and they die. The person in that vehicle, because they had felonious intent, are now considered to be as culpable as those who pulled the trigger…and subject to the Felony Murder Rule. But there’s now an understanding that there is a skewing in the logic of that….it just doesn’t make sense.

There’s clearly a difference in culpability between a person who is the getaway driver and the person who walked into the building, broke in, and then found somebody there, tied him up, and then killed him. Clearly a difference between the two. Should they have been involved in the crime? No. Are they subject to some of the criminal activity? Yes. Should they be involved in a burglary? Yes. Should they be involved in at least a theft charge, or a grand theft charge? Or embezzlement, or something like that? Yes. Because they were clearly complicit in that behavior, but they weren’t complicit in the murder side of things. There is a groundswell of support that’s building in the legal community, and I hope that law will change at some point.”

Ray Hrdlicka – Host – Attorneys.Media

“So, what your saying, in the past, it has been applied, like in your example of the getaway driver, to a murder charge.”

Andrew Dósa – Criminal Defense Attorney – Alameda County, CA

“Yes, it’s the rule in California right now.”

If you’ve been charged with a crime, one of the things that you should think of is what type of defenses are available to you. There are different types of legal defenses available in criminal law, and the type of criminal defense applicable to you and your case will depend on your situation.

Criminal defense law consists of all the legal protections given to individuals who have been accused of committing a crime. In criminal court, the prosecutor must meet the burden of proof – that is, the responsibility of proving their allegations against the accused.

The police and prosecutors have plenty of resources at their disposal to go after someone and charge them with a crime. To balance the power within the justice system, certain protections are in place for the accused. These, and the skills and experience of a defense attorney will dictate how a defendant will be treated in criminal litigation.

An experienced criminal defense attorney knows how to use constitutional laws for the benefit of their client. For instance, criminal prosecution is based upon the evidence gathered by law enforcers. This evidence can be in the form of physical evidence. This will usually consist of objects found in a crime scene, like a possible weapon, tire marks, shoe print, or even tiny pieces of fabric.

Common Defenses in a Criminal Case

There are many common defenses to criminal charges. You may argue that there are inconsistencies in the prosecution’s case against you, that the evidence gathered violated your constitutional rights, or that you had a justifiable reason for committing the crime. Below are some common primary criminal law defenses.


The defendant didn’t commit the crime you were charged for. The defense can provide an alibi proving you weren’t at the scene when the crime occurred, or present evidence and witnesses that can counter the prosecution’s case.


The defendant admits to using force. However, the defense argues that it’s justified since it was done in self-defense due to the violent and threatening actions of the other party.

Insanity Defense

The defendant may plead insanity to avoid being punished, since a criminal punishment is only justified if the offender has full control over their actions and understand that what they did was wrong.

Under Influence

In certain circumstances, a defendant may commit crimes under the influence of alcohol and drugs. This can be used as a criminal defense as if it affects the defendant’s mental functioning to the point where they cannot be held accountable for their actions.


If law enforcement officers caused the defendant to commit a crime that they wouldn’t have otherwise committed, then it’s considered entrapment and be used as a defense in criminal court.


Claiming innocence is one of the most basic defenses to criminal liability. You must remember that the prosecution has to prove the crime filed against you beyond a reasonable doubt. If you’re innocent, you don’t have to prove anything, but you can provide documents, testimonies, or evidence that will support the claim that you’re innocent.

Constitutional Violation

A constitutional violation is a type of criminal defense used if the evidence collected by the prosecution was gathered in a manner that violated your constitutional rights. This can include the illegal search, entry, or seizure of your house, car, clothing, etc. Failing to obtain an entry warrant, getting an improper confession, or failing to read to you your “Miranda Rights” at the time of your arrest are also constitutional violations that could lead to suppression of evidence against you or the total dismissal of the case.

Defense of Others

Similar to self-defense, you can use this type of defense if you have used a justifiable amount of force or violence to protect others who are being threatened or are in danger.

Other types of criminal defenses include defense of property, necessity, involuntary/voluntary intoxication, mistake of law, coercion, abandonment, and the statute of limitations.

If you’re accused a crime in California, it can be difficult to know where to start. That’s why you need an experienced defense attorney on your side when you face your charges. With over 20 years of experience successfully defending clients in California, Andrew Dósa understands the unique challenges of criminal defense in Alameda, CA and other areas in California.

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