In Virginia, felony murder is defined as subsections in both the first degree murder (Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-32) and second degree murder statutes (Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-33). Virginia also has a unique felony murder statute, but is still classified as second degree murder. Different degrees of felony murder depend on the seriousness of the underlying felony.

Prosecutors can charge and convict any person of murder without having to prove that they intended to cause another person’s death. Prosecutors must only prove that a person or an accomplice committed or attempted to commit another specified felony and that a death occurred. There is no possibility in Virginia for a person charged with felony murder to raise an affirmative defense–i.e. that he or she acted under duress, that they weren’t armed and had no reason to believe another participant was armed or intended to engage in conduct likely to result in death.

A conviction for felony murder in Virginia carries a sentence of 5 to 40 years for second degree murder, and a minimum of 20 years and a maximum sentence of life for first degree murder.

Analysis: Race

Race and Conviction Rate

In Virginia – excluding Alexandria and Fairfax counties where we do not yet have data – you are 4.0477 times more likely to be incarcerated for felony murder if you are Black than if you are white.

Black 4.0477x

Disproportionate Representation

In terms of gender, women make up 17.35% of felony murder convictions from the data we analyzed.


Analysis: Harsh Sentences

In total, there are 98 persons incarcerated for felony murder in the data we were able to analyze from Virginia (comprising 6.23% of all murder convictions in the counties analyzed).

They are sentenced to a cumulative

1,777 years in prison

For those not serving life sentences, the median number of years in prison they were sentenced to is 18 years.

Data Request Process

Data Request Process Grade 0.2 / 5 (F)
Factors Supporting Grade
Request Responsiveness
Financial Accessibility
No Residency Required
Appeal Responsiveness

*These factors track the process--i.e. the effort and obstacles--for obtaining data from individual states under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request and appeals process. These factors do not measure the quality of the data; only the process of attempting to obtain the data.

How We Collected Our Data

Virginia erects significant obstacles to requesting and receiving any data, including a residency requirement–i.e. that the person filing the request be a legal resident of Virginia. Additionally information requests made to the Virginia DOC allows them to charge for the actual costs of responding to FOIA requests. This would include items such as staff time spent searching for and retrieving the requested records, copying costs, postage and any other costs directly related to supplying the requested records.

We were able to create our dataset instead by examining Virginia Courts data for persons whose sentenced statute was listed as 18.2-33. We verified our method against the methods used by researchers at Measures for Justice, to determine the statute for felony murder (Virginia Code 18.2-33). We retrieved this data from, an independent collection of court records run by Ben Schoefield.

Critically, these records only cover court cases from 2000 to 2020 and do not cover Alexandria and Fairfax counties (Virginia’s 13th and 1st most populous counties, respectively). Given that Fairfax County is the state’s most populous county, not having data from the County is highly problematic in terms of representing an accurate snapshot of the state's felony-murder convictions. Nonetheless, we are publishing what we have, as we endeavor to obtain more complete data.

Access the Data

Learn more about how you can contribute to transparency when it comes to felony murder.

Our analysis only covers court cases from 2000 to 2020 and do not cover Alexandria and Fairfax counties.