After January 1, 2019, many Defendants convicted of murder in California under the felony murder rule or the natural and probable consequence theory will have the opportunity, regardless of age of their conviction, to petition the trial court to vacate their murder conviction.  This applied to many individuals serving life for in prison for a murder they did not intend. California Senate Bill 1437, effective January 1, 2018, will provide, pursuant to California Penal Code Section 1437 a means of vacating the conviction and then re-sentencing  a defendant when a complaint, information, or indictment was filed against the defendant that allowed the prosecution to proceed under a theory of first degree felony murder or murder under the natural and probable consequences doctrine.

The purpose of Senate Bill 1437 signed by Gov. Jerry Brown is to amend the century old legal status of California’s felony murder rule.  Existing law holds people liable for first degree murder under various broad-scope conditions. Some of these include felony acts, like robberies, where the individual did not have the intent to kill or aid in a killing, despite it occuring.  

The bill is meant to ensure that murder liability, or essentially being an accomplice to murder, is not imposed on someone who wasn’t the actual killer, wasn’t a major participant in the underlying felony, as well as not acting with an intent kill or reckless indifference for life.  Those persons who may have killed without these pretense or conditions, ought not be charged for murder to the same degree of which someone who willfully killed or participated in the killing in a major role. To conflate an intentional, malicious act to take life is surely different than an incidental killing.

Another important aspect of this bill is that law enforcement will have a better position to prosecute the actual killer, since any co-defendants who did not intend to kill nor had reckless indifference to human life will not fear felony first degree murder prosecution and can thereby be incentivized to talk truthfully about what took place.

If you or a loved one has been charged and convicted of murder where the prosecution relied on the felony murder rule or the natural and probable consequence theory, give us a call today at (714) 973-2024 to discuss the case and the opportunities for reversing the conviction.