Resentencing for Felony Murder
Chambers Law Firm Frees Client Who Spent 16 Years in Prison. On October 8, 2020, Chambers Law Firm client Luis Beltrán walked out of prison after serving nearly 16 years on a murder sentence. After over a year of litigation, Chambers Law Firm secured Mr. Beltran’s release after the judge granted his SB1437 petition.
As part of a wave of criminal justice reform, California recently updated its felony murder rule. SB 1437 will significantly change the way that felony murders are prosecuted in the state. This law will also make certain Californians convicted of felony murder eligible to have their sentences reduced based on the updated definition of the crime.
The rules regarding resentencing for felony murder are complex. Although there has been a substantial change in the law, the felony murder doctrine has not been abandoned entirely. Instead, some people involved in felonies where a death occurs will not longer be prosecuted for felony murder.
The Chambers Law Firm is dedicated to protecting the rights of its clients — including by advocating for those who may be eligible for resentencing under SB 1437. If you have been convicted of felony murder, we can help you navigate the resentencing process. Contact our office today at 855-397-0210 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or to schedule a free initial consultation.
What Is SB 1437?
Senate Bill 1437 is a bipartisan bill that amends California’s felony murder rule, which holds people liable for first-degree murder if a death occurs during the commission of certain felonies, even if the person did not intend for the death to happen or assist in the killing in any way.
SB 1437 updates the centuries-old felony murder rule. Rather than holding all co-defendants in a criminal case responsible for a death, prosecutors cannot charge a suspect with felony murder “unless the person was the actual killer or the person was not the actual killer but, with the intent to kill, aided, abetted, counseled, commanded, induced, solicited, requested, or assisted the actual killer.”
Most importantly, SB 1437 makes hundreds or even thousands of Californians eligible for resentencing. If you were convicted of felony murder under the pre-2019 law, you may qualify to have your sentence reduced based on the amendments to the law. Put simply, the crime you were convicted of may no longer be a crime — and a criminal defense attorney Los Angeles, CA can assist you in potentially having your sentence reduced.
SB 1437 was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in September 2018. It will go into effect on January 1, 2019. Re:Store Cal offers a more in-depth examination of SB 1437, as well as a sample resentencing petition.
Eligibility for Resentencing Under SB 1437
SB 1437 is a major criminal justice reform for the state of California. However, not every person convicted of felony murder will be eligible for resentencing under this law. A skilled criminal defense attorney Los Angeles, CA can review your case to advise you on whether you may qualify for resentencing.
To be eligible for resentencing, you must fall into one of the three following categories:
- If you were convicted under the first degree felony murder rule, you did not kill; did not intend to kill; and did not act as a major participant in the felony with reckless indifference to human life;
- If you were convicted as an accomplice to a “target” crime under the second degree natural and probable consequences doctrine, you did not kill or act with malice in the killing; or
- If you were convicted of second degree felony murder.
If you were convicted of felony murder on another basis, then you are not eligible for resentencing under SB 1437. To determine the theory of murder under which you were convicted, contact the lawyer who represented you at trial or on appeal. The jury instructions for your case will set forth the theory of the case. If you are unsure of how to request these documents or need assistance in reviewing your case files, contact a seasoned criminal defense attorney Los Angeles, CA.
The new felony murder rule does not state that all persons who were not the actual killer are eligible for resentencing. A person involved in a felony in which a death occurred is eligible for resentencing if the person:
- Did not actually kill anyone;
- Did not intend to kill, or aid or encourage the killing in any way;
- Did not act as a major participant in the felony with reckless indifference to human life; and
- The victim was not a police office who was acting in the performance of their duties or the defendant did not know of the police officer’s status and that status was not reasonably apparent under the circumstances.
Resentencing petitions must be filed in the form of declarations, under the penalty of perjury. This means that you should be cautious when deciding to file a petition for resentencing under SB 1437, and consult with a criminal defense attorney Los Angeles, CA prior to making a decision about resentencing.
Filing a Petition for Resentencing
Under SB 1437, a person currently serving a sentence for felony murder may file a petition for resentencing by submitting declarations regarding your conviction. A copy of this petition must be mailed to the District Attorney, or the Attorney General if that office prosecuted your case, and either to your private attorney or to the Office of the Public Defender.
Importantly, petitions for resentencing can be filed if you were convicted of felony murder with “special circumstances” that resulted in sentence of death or life without the possibility of parole. There are a number of special circumstances murders, including a finding that a person was a major participant in a felony that results in a killing, that may be eligible for resentencing. However, because SB 1437 is a new law, it is unclear how the courts will interpret SB 1437. An experienced criminal defense attorney Los Angeles, CA can advise you of the best course of action based on the facts of your case.
Work with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney
SB 1437 offers hope to countless Californians — both those convicted of felony murder and their loved ones. It also represents progress in the move towards criminal justice reform, as it is a significant step towards more equitable prosecution for crimes.
At the Chambers Law Firm, we are fierce advocates for our clients. From the initial arrest to the final appeal, we stand by you through the process. This includes working with you on petitions for resentencing if you have been convicted of felony murder.
While not every person convicted of felony murder will be eligible for resentencing, this law offers an opportunity for hundreds (or potentially thousands) of Californians to gain freedom. We can advise you on eligibility and help you through the process. Contact our office today at 855-397-0210 or email@example.com to schedule a free initial consultation with a criminal defense attorney Los Angeles, CA.