Georgia Criminal Defense Blog

Military Fugitive’s Georgia Arrest Demonstrates Both State and Federal Charges

Posted by Richard Lawson | Mar 01, 2018 | 0 Comments

What does it mean to face both federal and state charges? 

In Georgia, it simply means that a person has been charged with violating state laws by the State of Georgia and also has been charged with violating federal laws by the United States Attorney's Office. Charges can be brought at the state level, federal level, or both. Most people think that a federal charge is more severe in comparison to a state charge, but that is incorrect. The main differentiator between these cases and solely a Georgia Criminal Case is that the possibility exists that the accused person (if convicted) could face much greater punishment, since he's facing both federal and state conviction if found guilty in both criminal cases. 

For example:

Neenahjah Rae-Kwon Purvis has been wanted on a federal charge since reportedly deserting his position with the United States Navy. Recently, he was arrested on February 23 in DeKalb County for separate Georgia offenses: alleged home invasion and felony murder. So now he is facing charges of first-degree home invasion in Georgia, felony murder in Georgia, as well as the federal military desertion charge.

As a Georgia Criminal Defense Attorney, I'd now like to focus on the charges Purvis is facing in Georgia:

According to Georgia law, first-degree home invasion is defined as “when, without authority and with intent to commit a forcible felony therein and while in possession of a deadly weapon or instrument which, when used offensively against a person, is likely to or actually does result in serious bodily injury, he or she enters the dwelling house of another while such dwelling house is occupied by any person with authority to be present therein” (O.C.G.A. §16-7-5). According to arrest warrants, Purvis was allegedly armed when he forced entry into an extended stay motel room off of Memorial Drive. In Georgia, this crime is considered a felony, and the penalties for conviction can include a life sentence in prison or a sentence of 10 to 20 years in prison as well as a fine up to $100,000. In order to be convicted, the State must prove that Purvis is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. 

Once inside the motel room, Purvis allegedly shot at Maliki Jawuan Holt, which resulted in Holt's death. This is where the charge of felony murder comes in. 

According to Georgia law, felony murder is defined as "when, in the commission of a felony, he or she causes the death of another human being irrespective of malice” (O.C.G.A. §16-5-1(c)). Purvis broke into the motel room armed, which constitutes being engaged in the commission of a felony (first-degree home invasion). He then allegedly shot Holt causing his death. 

Felony murder is a confusing type of murder because the murder occurs within the commission of a felony. 

To clear up the confusion, let's look at another example of felony murder in Georgia. 

In Brockman v. State, 292 Ga. 707 (2013), Brockman was facing charges of armed robbery and felony murder (similar to this situation with Purvis). Brockman, while in commission of the armed robbery of a gas station, shot and killed a victim after the victim refused to give him money. The jury found sufficient evidence that Brockman was engaged in the commission of the armed robbery - while he was trying to rob the victim - at the time that he murdered the victim. 

A person can also be charged with felony murder if while he or she is in the commission of a felony, someone else actually causes the death of another. Consider the following hypothetical: "Z" goes to rob a bank, and a security guard shoots at "Z". The security guard misses and shoots a bank teller, and she dies. "Z" is subsequently charged with the murder of the bank teller, even though he only meant to rob the bank. 

In Georgia, felony murder is, itself, considered a felony. The penalty for conviction can include either a life sentence in prison (with or without parole) or the death penalty. 

Puris is facing some serious convictions if he is found guilty by the state of Georgia. And regardless of the result of the Georgia case, he still faces the federal military desertion charge. 

If you or a loved one have been charged with a crime in Georgia, you need to be represented by a top-rated Georgia Criminal Defense Lawyer. We understand just because someone is accused of a crime, it does not mean they are guilty. We will never assume your guilt - contact us today.

About the Author

Richard Lawson

Managing Partner at Lawson & Berry:


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