What is The Felony Murder Rule in Oklahoma Criminal Cases

Target Letter from a Federal Grand Jury

Felony Murder Rule in Oklahoma is a statuary rule that is used in some degree or another in most states and by the Federal criminal court. This rule expands the definition of murder to certain participants in a crime. The felony murder rule is a legal doctrine that imposes liability for murder on a participant in a felony if a death occurs during the commission of the felony, even if the participant did not intend for anyone to be killed. Oklahoma, like many other U.S. states, has a felony murder rule in its criminal law.

Definitions of Felony Murder Rule in Oklahoma

In Oklahoma, the felony murder rule is found in the Oklahoma Statutes, Title 21, Section 701.7. According to the statute, a person can be charged with murder in the first degree if the death of a person occurs during the commission of certain felonies, including:

  • First degree burglary
  • Robbery with a dangerous weapon
  • Kidnapping
  • First degree arson
  • First degree rape
  • First degree escape
  • Murder of a peace officer

To be convicted under the felony murder rule the party to the felony crime must be something more than a participant. Rather the person the rule is extending to must be seen as aiding and abetting in the actual felony crime. To successfully use the rule the prosecution must show the the accused was an active participant in each element of the crime.

Defenses To The Felony Murder Rule May Include

  • Lack of intent: This element is heavily attacked by your criminal defense lawyer. If the defendant did not have the intent to commit murder or did not know that their actions could lead to a death, they may be able to argue that they should not be charged with murder.
  • Proximate cause: If the death was caused by someone or something other than the defendant, the defendant may be able to argue that they should not be held responsible for the death.
  • Merger: If the underlying felony merges with the murder charge, the defendant may be able to argue that they cannot be charged with both offenses.
  • Other self defense claims that can be asserted by the individual actually doing the killing

In a recent Oklahoma criminal appeals case the Appeals Court reversed the application of the rule. In the case of RANGEL v. STATE the court was dealing with a murder that took place in a drug distribution case. Mr. Regel and his legal team argued that the accused was nothing more than a customer of the CDS drugs. The Court citing several other decisions stated that a buyer of drugs aids and abets in the felony crime. The court reversed the conviction and remanded for a new trial.


Application of the Felony Murder Rule in Oklahoma

  • A group of individuals rob a convenience store and one of them accidentally shoots and kills a store clerk. All of the robbers can be charged with first degree murder under the felony murder rule.
  • A man kidnaps a woman and during the course of the kidnapping, the woman dies from a heart attack. The man can be charged with first degree murder under the felony murder rule.
  • A group of individuals plan to burglarize a house and during the course of the burglary, one of them accidentally sets the house on fire and a person inside dies. All of the burglars can be charged with first degree murder under the felony murder rule.

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Tulsa Criminal Defense Attorneys in Your Corner

If you’ve been charged under the felony murder doctrine you face serious consequences. If the state is successful you could face life in prison without parole and even a death sentence. Our Oklahoma defense attorneys understand that those charged with this crime have their life on the line. Our Tulsa criminal lawyers have nearly 75 years of combined experience defending people just like you. Get a free and confidential consultation by calling 918.743.2233 or click here to ask a legal question.

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