When many people think of the word "murder," they may instinctively think of a premeditated, calculated act that is carefully planned-out beforehand. However, in Washington State there are different degrees of murder depending on the circumstances of an offense and the degree of intent involved. Washington State also has what is known as a "felony murder rule" that, in essence, can bring extremely serious charges against someone who takes the life of another while committing certain other felonies.
If someone intentionally takes the life of another person in Washington, that person may be charged with varying degrees of homicide. However, if a person accidentally kills another during the commission of another crime, such as a robbery, that person can also be charged with homicide even though they did not actively set out to take the person's life.
In general, a person is guilty of second-degree murder in Washington when he or she purposely takes the life of another but without premeditation. A person may also be accused of murder in the second degree if, during the course of another felony-level crime, they cause the death of another person. This death can be caused during the act of the felony crime itself or when the person who causes the death is fleeing from the scene, such as in a speeding vehicle that strikes and kills a pedestrian. Second-degree murder is a class A felony in Washington.
This is just a very basic outline of the general principles of the felony murder rule; experienced legal counsel can offer legal advice and explain the more detailed nuances of this important law. There are several different defenses available to someone accused of homicide under the felony murder rule, so it's important for defendants to contact an attorney right away and share the entirety of their circumstances with a trusted attorney. Related offenses may include felony gun charges, various other weapons charges and assault. A Spokane criminal defense lawyer can help.
Source: Washington State Legislature, "RCW 9A.32.050," accessed Aug. 26, 2016