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Article 118(4) UCMJ Felony Murder

Note: This law applies only to Article 118(4) UCMJ Felony Murder offenses allegedly committed on or after 1 January 2019.

What is Article 118(4) UCMJ Murder – Felony Murder?

Article 118(4) UCMJ Felony Murder military defense attorneysArticle 118(4) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) addresses the crime of felony murder within the military justice system. Specifically, it defines the act of unintentionally causing death during the commission or attempted commission of certain felonies such as burglary, rape, or robbery. Unlike premeditated murder, felony murder does not require the intent to kill; mere participation in a qualifying felony that leads to a death can result in a felony murder charge.

Understanding the gravity of such charges is crucial for any service member facing a possible accusation of Article 118(4) UCMJ Felony Murder. The penalties for felony murder under Article 118(4) can be as severe as those for premeditated murder, including life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. This makes it essential for anyone accused of such a crime to seek legal representation immediately.

If you or a loved one are under investigation or facing charges related to felony murder, the stakes are extraordinarily high. The military justice system is complex, and navigating it requires a deep understanding of military and criminal law. At Gonzalez & Waddington, our legal team has a long history of defending service members in serious criminal cases.

An experienced military defense attorney in an Article 118(4) UCMJ Felony Murder case is crucial.

A seasoned lawyer will meticulously analyze the specifics of your case, identify potential defenses, and work tirelessly to protect your rights. They will understand the nuances of military law, procedural requirements, and strategies to counter the prosecution’s case effectively.

Facing an Article 118(4) UCMJ felony murder charge can be overwhelming, but you do not have to face it alone. Contact Gonzalez & Waddington today to ensure you have a robust defense and a team committed to fighting for your future.

What are the Types of Murder Under Article 118 UCMJ?

  1. Article 118(1) UCMJ Premeditated Murder
  2. Article 118(2) UCMJ Unpremeditated Murder
  3. Article 118(3) UCMJ Murder while engaging in an act inherently dangerous to another
  4. Article 118(4) UCMJ Murder

What are the Elements of Article 118(4) UCMJ Felony Murder?

  1. That (state the name or description of the alleged victim) is dead;

  2. That his/her death resulted from the (act) (omission) of the accused in (state the act or failure to act alleged) at (state the time and place alleged);

  3. That the killing of (state the name or description of the alleged victim) by the accused was unlawful; and

  4. That, at the time of the killing, the accused was engaged in the (attempted) perpetration of (burglary) (rape) (rape of a child) (sexual assault) (sexual assault of a child) (aggravated sexual contact) (sexual abuse of a child) (robbery) (aggravated arson).

What are the Maximum Punishments for Article 118(4) UCMJ Felony Murder?

Maximum Punishment for Article 118(4) UCMJ Felony Murder committed between 1 Jan 2019 to 27 Dec 2023:

  • Death or mandatory minimum of confinement for life with eligibility for parole.
  • Dishonorable Discharge, BCD, Dismissal
  • Total Forfeitures
  • Reduction to E-1
  • Collateral Consequences of a Federal Felony Conviction

Maximum Punishment for Article 118(4) UCMJ Felony Murder committed after 27 Dec 2023

  • Under the Sentencing Parameters, Article 118(4) UCMJ Felony Murder is a Category 6 Offense – Confinement for life with eligibility for parole
  • Dishonorable Discharge, BCD, Dismissal
  • Total Forfeitures
  • Reduction to E-1
  • Collateral Consequences of a Federal Felony Conviction
  • Note: The Military Judge MAY impose a period of confinement less than the jurisdictional maximum period of confinement upon finding specific facts that warrant such a sentence. Manual for Courts-Martial, United States (2024 ed.), Appendix 12B-C

Combined UCMJ Maximum Punishment Charts

Sample Specifications for Article 118(4) UCMJ Felony Murder

In that COL Brian Thomson, US Army, did, Kaiserslautern, Germany, on or about 21 September 2025, while perpetrating a burglary, murder Cindy Schuler by means of shooting her with a pistol.

Model Specifications for Article 118(4) UCMJ Felony Murder

In that _______ (personal jurisdiction data), did, (at/on board—location), on or about _______, (while (perpetrating) (attempting to perpetrate) __________) murder ______ by means of (shooting (him) (her) with a rifle) (__________).

What are the Underlying Offenses Required for Article 118(4) UCMJ Felony Murder?

The killing of a human being is unlawful when done without legal justification or excuse.

To find that the accused was participating in the (attempted) commission of the offense of:

  1. burglary
  2. rape
  3. rape of a child
  4. sexual assault
  5. sexual assault of a child
  6. aggravated sexual contact
  7. sexual abuse of a child
  8. robbery, or
  9. aggravated arson

You must be satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt: (insert elements of the underlying offense).

Elements of the felony offense under Article 118(4) UCMJ Felony Murder.

The military judge should state the elements of the offense alleged to have been perpetrated or attempted. This statement should be based upon the pertinent instruction that lists the elements of that offense but should be tailored to serve the purpose for which the statement is intended.

When the offense committed is an attempted perpetration of the above-stated crimes, the military judge should refer to Instruction 3a-4-1, Attempts – Other than Murder and Voluntary Manslaughter, which will prove helpful in drafting necessary instructions.

Causation in an Article 118(4) UCMJ Felony Murder case:

Should an issue arise about the lack of a relationship between the felony and the death, use the following:

To find that the killing, if any, was committed while the accused was engaged in the (burglary) (rape) (rape of a child) (sexual assault) (sexual assault of a child) (aggravated sexual contact) (sexual abuse of a child) (robbery) (aggravated arson ), you must find beyond a reasonable doubt that an act of the accused which caused the victim’s death and the (burglary) (rape) (rape of a child) (sexual assault) (sexual assault of a child) (aggravated sexual contact) (sexual abuse of a child) (robbery) (aggravated arson) occurred at substantially the same time and place.

Additionally, you must find a causal connection between the commission of the (burglary) (rape) (rape of a child) (sexual assault) (sexual assault of a child) (aggravated sexual contact) (sexual abuse of a child) (robbery) (aggravated arson) and the act which caused the victim’s death.

Specific intent as an element of the felony offense under Article 118(4) UCMJ Felony Murder.

While felony murder, as such, does not involve premeditation or specific intent, some of the crimes of (burglary) (rape) (rape of a child) (sexual assault) (sexual assault of a child) (aggravated sexual contact) (sexual abuse of a child) (robbery) (aggravated arson) do involve a specific intent.

Also, the crime of aggravated arson involves an element of knowledge. Thus, when appropriate, you should consult Instruction 6-5, Partial Mental Responsibility, Instruction 5-17, Evidence Negating Mens Rea, or Instruction 5-12, Voluntary Intoxication, for instructions bearing on specific intent or knowledge.

NOTE 4: Brain death instruction for Article 118(4) UCMJ Felony Murder cases.

  1. The military standard for death includes brain death. An individual is dead who has sustained either: irreversible cessation of spontaneous respiration and circulatory functions, or
  2. irreversible cessation of all functions of the brain, including the brain stem.
  3. See US v. Gomez, 15 MJ 954 (ACMR 1983); US v. Jefferson, 22 MJ 315 (CMA 1986); and US v. Taylor, 44 MJ 254 (CAAF 1996). Instruction 7-24 Brain Death, may be adapted for this circumstance.

Other instructions in Article 118(4) UCMJ Felony Murder cases.

  • Instruction 7-3, Circumstantial Evidence (Intent and Knowledge), may also be applicable.

Overview of Article Article 118(4) UCMJ Felony Murder

Article 118(4) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) addresses felony murder, a serious offense under military law. Felony murder occurs when an individual causes the death of another person while committing or attempting to commit certain felonies, such as burglary, robbery, rape, or arson. Unlike other murder charges, felony murder does not require proof of premeditation or intent to kill. The critical element is that the death occurred during the commission of a felony.

Hiring a Military Defense Lawyer for Article 118(4) UCMJ Felony Murder

This provision holds individuals strictly liable for any deaths that result from their participation in inherently dangerous felonies, reflecting the principle that individuals engaging in high-risk criminal activities should be accountable for the severe consequences of their actions. Conviction under Article 118(4) UCMJ Felony Murder can result in severe penalties, including life imprisonment or even the death penalty, depending on the case’s circumstances and the military court’s judgment.

Selecting the Best Military Defense Lawyers for Article 118(4) UCMJ Felony Murder

The prosecution must establish that the accused was involved in the underlying felony and that the death was a direct result of their actions during this felony. Defenses against a felony murder charge may include challenging the connection between the felony and the death or proving a lack of participation in the felony. Given its severe implications, Article 118(4) UCMJ Felony Murder emphasizes the military’s commitment to maintaining discipline and accountability among its members, ensuring that those who endanger their lives through serious criminal conduct face significant consequences.

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