Of all the homicide offenses in the United States, first-degree murder is the most serious. In a first-degree murder case, the charge assumes that the murder was willful and intentional. The charge is placed when it’s believed that the murder was premeditated.

Not all first-degree murders have to be intentional, though. In the U.S., there are at least five crimes that can be committed that, if they lead to a death, could result in first-degree murder charges in most states.

What five crimes could lead to felony murder charges if a death occurs as a result of committing them?

The five crimes include:

  • Arson
  • Kidnapping
  • Robbery
  • Burglary
  • Rape

The five crimes are considered to be violent felonies, so they usually fall under the felony murder rule in states that recognize it. With this rule, if a person dies as a result of these criminal acts, the defendant can face first-degree murder charges. Not all states abide by the felony murder rule, so it’s a good idea to talk to your attorney about whether it will apply in your case. If it does and someone accidentally died as a result of one of the acts above, you could be charged for first-degree murder regardless of intent.

What is most interesting about the above rule is that the defendant doesn’t necessarily have to be the one who causes the death. For example, if you and a partner rob a convenience store and flee but the store owner shoots a gun and kills the person you were working with, you could face felony murder charges. As of 2019, Tennessee does recognize felony murders committed during certain felony acts and includes several additional crimes along with the five above. It is important to discuss the possibility of first-degree murder charges with your attorney if you have committed a violent offense that resulted in a death, even if you did not kill the person who died.

What should you do if you are accused of a first-degree murder?

The first thing you should do is remember to stay quiet. Don’t go through interviews or speak with the authorities without the help of your attorney. Your attorney can take many steps to help protect your interests and work to reduce the penalties you face. First-degree murder charges aren’t always easy to prove, so your attorney will work closely with you to find ways to defend your actions and protect your rights.