D was driving a stolen vehicle when he was signaled to pull over by a police officer.
D pulled over then took off. D drove without headlights at a rate much greater than the speed limits in trying to flee. D ran stop signs and red lights.
The police officer decided that the pursuit was too dangerous and backed off.
About a minute after the pursuit was discontinued, D hit Rodriguez's car and killed her.
D was charged with second-degree felony murder since the homicide was the direct causal result of the commission of a felony inherently dangerous to human life.
Trial court found D guilty.
CA COA affirmed, D guilty.
CA Supreme Court reversed, remanded.
In states with the inherently dangerous felony limitation on felony murder, how should a court decide if a felony is inherently dangerous?
In determining whether a felony is inherently dangerous, a court should look of the elements of the felony in the abstract (not with the particular facts of the case) to determine whether the felony by its very nature cannot be committed without creating a substantial risk that someone will be killed.
The second degree felony-murder rule is a court-made rule in CA, not a statute. Its constitutionality has been questioned, so it makes sense not to extend the rule beyond its required application.
This particular crime only requires that a D drive with a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property; the legislature said that this part can be fulfilled if the D violates three traffic rules which carry point penalties.
There are many traffic rules with point penalties that are not inherently dangerous, like driving an unregistered vehicle. Thus, it is possible that this offense can be committed without creating a substantial risk that someone will be killed.
The rule should be abolished entirely since its application is so arbitrary.
The offense is inherently dangerous.
Any felony whose key element is wanton disregard for human life necessarily falls within the scope of inherently dangerous felonies.
The purpose of the felony-murder rule is to deter those engaged in felonies from killing negligently or accidentally.
It is clear that there is inherent danger in commission of this offense.
It is ridiculous not to apply it to this offense merely because it is possible that the felony may be committed in a nonviolent way. The circumstances of the case should be considered.