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Human Trafficking to Join the List of Felonies that Predicate The Felony Murder Rule in Florida

Over the last decade, there has been a significant push in the United States and worldwide to curb the prevalence and impact of human trafficking. Investigations into human trafficking has revealed how significant and pervasive the practice really is, especially in United States, and in particular in Florida. Tampa, for example, has been cited as one of the epicenters of human trafficking in the United States and considered a “destination spot” for those interested in the practice. Florida has been noted as third of all states in most number of human trafficking tips received by the national trafficking hotline.

Because of the serious emotional, physical, and mental impact that human trafficking has on its victims, federal and state laws have been cracking down on the practice in hopes of not only deterring those interested in joining the practice, but also to eliminate the practice altogether.

Florida House Bill 545

Florida Governor Rick Scott signed into law in March 2016 House Bill (HB) 545, which will include human trafficking onto the list of felonies that predicate the offense for felony murder, as well as ensure that minors involved in specific prostitution charges will not be prosecuted.

The Felony Murder Rule

The felony murder rule varies state-by-state but all surround one specific principle: there are certain felonies that are inherently dangerous and if someone dies during the commission of these inherently dangerous felonies, the person(s) committing the felony (regardless of the level of involvement) will be charged with first-degree murder. In other words, if a criminal defendant was found to be involved in a bank robbery where someone was killed during the commission of the robbery, he or she will be charged with first-degree murder. The reasoning behind this law is that it was foreseeable for those involved in an inherently dangerous felony that someone could have died as a result of the felony. Also, the hope is that tying murder to dangerous felony will deter those who would otherwise join the conspiracy.

The Felony Murder Rule in Florida

The felony murder rule generally includes the following as the list of predicate felonies that would invoke the felony murder rule in the event someone dies during the commission of the following crimes:

  • Arson;
  • Sexual assault/battery;
  • Escape from police custody;
  • Carjacking;
  • Robbery (commercial and home-invasion);
  • Child, elder, or disabled adult aggravated abuse;
  • Kidnapping; and
  • Burglary, among others.

The Incorporation of Human Trafficking into The Felony Murder List

In HB 545, the bill expands on human trafficking and incorporates human trafficking as a predicate to the felony murder rule. This would mean that in the event that someone dies as a result or during the commission of a human trafficking offense, everyone involved in the human trafficking offense will be charged not only with the human trafficking offense but also first-degree murder of the person killed. This ensures that everyone involved, regardless of the level of involvement and how directly or indirectly each individual was involved in the death of the person, will be punished. The gravity of incorporating human trafficking into the felony murder list will hopefully deter many from joining the network of human traffickers.

Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale

Human trafficking is a very serious offense and could lead to years, if not, life in prison. If you or a loved one has been charged with human trafficking, it is important to speak with an experienced defense attorney like Kevin J. Kulik. Contact Kevin J. Kulik today for a free and confidential consultation in the Fort Lauderdale area.

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