86 Cal. App. 3d 618
PROCEDURAL POSTURE: Appellant prosecution sought review of the order of the Superior Court of Fresno County (California), which amended an information by dismissing felony murder charges against respondent criminal defendants and substituting vehicular manslaughter charge. Respondents caused a fatal traffic accident while fleeing a burglary.
OVERVIEW: A fatal traffic accident occurred during a high-speed chase following respondent criminal defendants' commission of a nonviolent, daylight burglary of an unattended motor vehicle. Respondents were charged with burglary and felony murder under Cal. Penal Code § 189. The trial court granted respondents' Cal. Penal Code § 995, motion to set aside the information, dismissed the murder charge, and amended the information to substitute a vehicular manslaughter charge. Appellant sought further review. On appeal, the court reversed.
The court questioned whether the legislature intended to include an automobile burglary within the felony-murder rule, but held respondents could be prosecuted for first degree felony murder because burglary fell expressly within the purview of Cal. Penal Code §189.
The court noted that under judicial precedent, any burglary within Cal. Penal Code § 459, was sufficient to invoke the rule. The court concluded that respondents could also be prosecuted for ordinary second-degree murder because the conduct clearly presented an issue of fact as to whether respondents exhibited a wanton and reckless disregard for human life.
OUTCOME: The court reversed the trial court's judgment dismissing the felony murder charge against respondent criminal defendants, because the felony-murder rule was applicable to any burglary, and the rule applied whether the killing was caused intentionally, negligently, or merely accidentally.
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