What Is the New Felony Murder Rule in California?

In September of 2018, Governor Jerry Brown signed California Senate Bill 1437 into law. Co-written by Senators Joel Anderson (R) and Nancy Skinner (D), SB 1437 amends the state’s felony-murder rule that in the past has automatically charged individuals with first-degree murder if a death occurred during certain felony crimes. 

Here’s what you need to know about SB 1437 and how it may affect you. 

SB 1437 Facts 

SB 1437: 

  • Ends the “natural and probable consequences” doctrine in cases of homicide 
  • No longer allows the sentencing of first-degree or felony murder in situations where the defendant did not commit homicide or was even unaware that a death had occurred 
  • Requires that the defendant committed or intended to commit murder to be charged, or was significantly involved in either committing or aiding in the killing  
  • May allow for a felony murder charge if a police officer was killed while performing their duties 

Is SB 1437 Retroactive? 

The good news for incarcerated inmates is that SB 1437 is retroactive, meaning that if a person was convicted of a felony murder that they would not be convicted for under the new law, they may be able to petition for a reduced sentence. Depending on time already served, this may result in the inmate becoming eligible for parole. 

Conditions That Must Be Met for Resentencing 

There are three conditions that must be met for an inmate convicted of first-degree murder to be resentenced under SB 1437: 

  1. The incarcerated inmate was found guilty of felony murder under natural and probable consequences doctrine; 
  2. The inmate was charged with and convicted of first or second-degree murder; and 
  3. The inmate would no longer qualify for conviction under the updated felony murder laws. 

How to Appeal Your Sentence Under SB 1437 

You may be able to pursue the appeal of your sentence under the new felony murder rule by filing a petition showing that you meet the criteria for a reduction of your sentence and attending a resentencing hearing. 

Can a California Criminal Defense Attorney Help? 

If you or a loved one were charged with first or second-degree homicide under California’s old felony murder rule, you may be eligible to have your sentence reduced. It’s important to work with an experienced criminal defense lawyer to build your case and submit your petition for resentencing. 

Contact Mouzis Criminal Defense today to learn more about your rights under SB 1437 or to schedule a consultation at (916) 822-8702.