SB-1437 Fundamentally Changes California’s Homicide Statutes

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In 2018, Senate Bill (SB)-1437 became law in California and significantly changed the rules regarding who can be charged with murder and felony murder. Prior to the approval of this new law, it was possible for an individual to face murder or felony murder charges if they were involved in any crime that resulted in the death of a person, even if they did not actively participate in the crime or the killing of the victim.

SB-1437 implements three key changes to California’s homicide statutes:

1. It is now required for the prosecution to prove an accused defendant had intent to kill a victim for the charge to qualify as felony murder.

2. It is no longer possible to convict an individual for murder based on natural and probable consequences. For example, it was previously possible to face murder charges if someone committed another crime against a victim and the victim dies of natural or probable causes, such as a heart attack. This was the case even if they had no intent to harm or kill the victim. Legislation has changed how these charges work.

3. The new statutes apply retroactively, meaning individuals convicted of murder and felony murder under the previous rules have the grounds to petition for reduced sentencing.

SB-1437 aims to alleviate overcrowding of California prisons and strain on the criminal justice system by restructuring the ways murder and felony murder cases are handled.

Felony murder is the most severe homicide charge an individual can face in California. Under SB-1437, the new law requires the prosecution to prove that an individual qualifies for a felony murder charge under specific conditions. Felony murder can apply when the accused killed someone else while committing or attempting to commit a felony when the accused aided or abetted the killing of another person. Likewise, it can apply if the accused otherwise acted as a major participant in killing another person. It’s also possible for the accused to face felony murder charges if the victim was a police officer on active duty.


How Can Person Appeal Their Prior Sentence?

If you believe that you or a loved one qualifies for a sentence reduction under SB-1437, consult an attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney can help you navigate the complex legal statutes you will need to reference as you compile your petition and prepare you for the resentencing hearing that will follow your petition. You will need to reference the details of your original case that prove that you qualify for resentencing, such as lack of intent or the fact that you did not actively participate in the death in question.

The Law Offices of James E. Silverstein can provide the legal guidance you need to navigate the new SB-1437 law. Felony murder penalties can mean years in prison, and securing a change to your sentence under SB-1437 could mean release from prison much sooner than your original sentence would allow. Our team will carefully review the details of your original case and help you determine your eligibility for resentencing under this new law. If you are ready to discuss your potential resentencing under SB-1437, contact us today to learn more about how we can help with the process.

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