SB 1437 Petitions
On September 30, 2018, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Senate Bill (SB) 1437. SB 1437 altered the state’s murder law by limiting who can be prosecuted for murder and felony murder.
The three most important features of the law are 1) felony murder can now be prosecuted only when the accused had the intent to kill, 2) there can no longer be convictions for natural and probable consequences murder, and 3) the law is retroactive, meaning people convicted of felony murder under the old law can petition to have their sentences reduced.
When Can a Person be Convicted of Felony Murder in California?
Under the new law, a person can be convicted of felony murder only if he/she:
- Killed someone while committing a felony or attempting to commit a felony; or
- Aided and abetted the killing; or
- Was a major participant in the killing; or
- The victim was a peace officer (police officer) on active duty
Under the old law, people were convicted of felony murder if someone died during the commission of a felony even if the accused had no intent to kill.
Comparing and Contrasting the Old and New Laws
An example scenario should help clarify the impact of the new felony murder law:
Scenario under the old law: James kidnaps a woman to hold her for ransom (kidnapping is a felony). He does not assault her or harm her in any way. But, the stress of the situation causes the woman to have a heart attack and she dies. Under the old rule, James could be charged with felony murder even though he did not kill her, nor did he intend to. He simply wanted ransom money.
Scenario under the new law: James commits the same kidnapping, the woman has a heart attack, and she dies. James did not kill her or harm her. Under the new law, James cannot be charged with felony murder, because he had no intent to kill her, nor did he inflict any harm on her.
What Happens to People Convicted Under the Old Felony Murder Law?
Some people who were convicted of felony murder are now eligible to apply for a sentence reduction. At The Law Office of Stein & Markus in Bellflower, we have a full understanding of the new law and can determine your eligibility. If you are eligible, we will file a petition for sentence reduction as soon as possible.
Felony murder convicts are eligible for sentence reduction only if they were convicted under the theory of “natural and probable causes.” The NPC theory essentially means:
- The convicted person assisted in the commission of a felony; and
- During the commission of the felony, a co-participant murdered someone; and
- Considering all the circumstances of the death, the death was a “natural and probable consequence” of the felony.
If a convicted person is able to show he/she is eligible for a sentence reduction, then a resentencing hearing is held. The hearing determines whether the sentence actually gets reduced or not.
The Law Office of Stein & Markus can help determine your eligibility for a sentence reduction, file your petition if you’re eligible, and represent you at the hearing. We’ll guide you throughout the proceeding and fight to make sure the new law is applied appropriately in your case.
What Our Clients Say
The very best. A great person of honor, integrity, compassion and tenacity!!!!