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West Palm Beach Criminal Lawyer / Blog / Violent Crimes / Attempted Felony Murder Charge For Young Mother

Attempted Felony Murder Charge For Young Mother


A tragic case in Palm Beach County has led to charges of attempted felony murder for a young woman. Rafaelle Carbalho Sousa was taken into custody after confessing to detectives that she gave birth to a baby girl and then abandoned her in a dumpster. She was charged with attempted felony murder, which carries up to life in prison. However, the concept of felony murder is not well understood by the average person, and if you are suspected of such a charge, it is critical you understand it thoroughly.

What Is Felony Murder?

Felony murder is generally charged when a person is killed during the commission of a felony by someone other than the defendant, regardless of the defendant’s intent to kill or not. For example, if you choose to rob a convenience store, but the clerk is killed by a stray bullet during the robbery, you can be charged not only with robbery, but with felony murder as well. The rationale is that you have committed an inherently dangerous offense, which in turn creates the opportunity for innocent bystanders to be harmed. This also applies to attempt crimes.

It is important to understand the intent angle, as very often it confuses the average person; intent matters when the prosecutor is trying to prove the underlying crime. In our robbery example, the prosecutor would have to prove that you had the intent to commit robbery. However, if someone is killed during the commission of your robbery, you can be charged with felony murder even if you had no intent to cause physical harm to anyone. Florida law explains this by allowing felony murder charges for those that are deemed to have acted with a “depraved mind regardless of human life.”

An Underlying Crime Of Child Abuse

In the case of Carbalho Sousa, the charge was attempted felony murder, plus one count of aggravated child abuse, which is considered a particularly serious offense under Florida’s felony murder law – this enables the felony murder charge in the first place. Carbalho Sousa allegedly gave birth, then abandoned the newborn in a dumpster with the umbilical cord still attached. The child was discovered by passersby in the apartment complex, and is now safe in foster care. The judge in Carbalho Sousa’s case forbade her from having contact with either the child’s father or the child herself, as is common in child abuse prosecutions.

One might wonder why the young woman was not simply charged with child abuse, given the clear intent to abandon the child, rather than kill her. If you are charged with felony murder, you may wonder the same thing – why tack another charge onto the original felony, especially if that underlying crime already carries a severe sentence? The answer is that there is a public policy interest in charging felony murder as a crime – that is, it is in the public interest to ensure that those who act in a reckless enough manner to allow felony murders to happen are charged with every offense that they can be, so the public in general will be safer. Recklessness is just as dangerous as malice in some situations.

Call A West Palm Beach Violent Crimes Lawyer

While as of this writing, Carbalho Sousa has not yet stood trial for child abuse and attempted felony murder, the outlook is grim. If you have been charged with felony murder, calling a West Palm Beach violent crimes lawyer at Perlet, Shiner, Melchiorre & Walsh, P.A. is a good first step – our attorneys have experience with these cases, and we understand the stakes. Contact our office today for personal attention.



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