Reducing a Sentence Under SB 1437 – A Top CA Appeals Lawyer Explains
Senate Bill 1437 allows many people convicted of “felony murder” to get a sentence reduction. Learn how to cut years (or decades) off of a felony murder sentence.
Table of Contents:
- What Does SB 1437 Do?
- Who Can Be Resentenced Under SB 1437
- How to Win Your SB 1437 Application
- How a Top Appeals Lawyer Can Help
In this article, former prosecutor and award-winning criminal appeals attorney Aaron Spolin explains how to win SB 1437 petitions.
To learn how Spolin Law P.C. can handle your SB 1437 petition, call us at (310) 424-5816.
What Does SB 1437 Do?
Senate Bill 1437 makes significant changes to Penal Code sections 188 and 189. SB 1437 effectively ends the role of the “natural and probable consequences” doctrine in murder cases. It makes it harder for people to be convicted of felony murder, and allows many inmates already convicted of felony murder to be resentenced to a lower sentence.
Old Felony Murder Rule:
Under the old felony murder rule a person was guilty of “felony murder” if:
- He/she participated in a serious felony (e.g., carjacking, robbery, burglary, etc…)
- A victim of the felony died during or as a result of the felony
There was no requirement that the person convicted be involved in the killing or even intend for the killing to occur. For example, if during the course of a robbery 5 people are robbing a victim and one robber shoots the victim, then all five robbers would be guilty of “felony murder” even if they never wished or had any knowledge that a killing would occur.
New Felony Murder Rule:
Under the new felony murder rule (passed by SB 1437) a person can only be guilty of “felony murder” if:
- The person is the actual killer.
- The person acted with intent to kill, such as assisting the actual killer, or encouraging the actual killer to kill the victim.
- The person was a major participant in the crime who acted with “reckless indifference to human life.”
- The victim was a police officer, who was killed on the job, and “the defendant knew or reasonably should have known that the victim was a peace officer engaged in the performance of his or her duties.”
In determining whether a person was a “major participant” in a crime, the court may consider:
- -What role did the defendant have in planning the criminal enterprise that led to one or more deaths?
-What role did the defendant have in supplying or using lethal weapons?
-What awareness did the defendant have of particular dangers posed by the nature of the crime, weapons used, or past experience or conduct of the other participants?
-Was the defendant present at the scene of the killing, in a position to facilitate or prevent the actual murder, and did his or her own actions or inaction play a particular role in the death?
-What did the defendant do after lethal force was used?
For example, a driver of a getaway car may be eligible to apply for resentencing. See Enmund v. Florida (1982) 458 US 782. See also People v. Banks (2015) 61 Cal 4th 788. See also People v. Perez (2016) 243 Cal.App.4th 863, 870.
In determining whether a person acted with “reckless indifference to human life,” the court may consider:
- -Knowledge of weapons, and use and number of weapons;
-Physical presence at the crime and opportunities to restrain the crime and/or aid the victim;
-Duration of the felony;
-The defendant’s knowledge of a cohort’s likelihood of killing; and
-The defendant’s efforts to minimize the risks of the violence during the felony.
For example, participating in a robbery where the defendant believed that there were no bullets in the gun, among other things, is likely not considered “reckless indifference to human life.” See People v. Clark (2016) 63 Cal 4th 522.
Who Can Be Resentenced Under SB 1437
The following people can be resentenced under SB 1437:
- Someone convicted of first degree murder.
- Someone convicted of second degree murder.
- Someone that accepted a plea offer, who could have been convicted of first degree or second degree murder, had he or she proceeded to trial, or who could not be convicted of first or second degree murder under the new law.
If you could have been charged with murder, using the current legal definition of murder, then you are not eligible to be resentenced.
How to Win Your SB 1437 Application
To win your SB 1437 application, you or your appeals attorney must file a petition with the court that originally sentenced you, declaring that you are eligible for resentencing. Your attorney must also include the court case number, and the year that you were convicted, as well as the supporting arguments and materials necessary. Your lawyer must then serve the petition on the district attorney, and on the attorney that represented you in the criminal trial.
In your petition, your appeals lawyer will need to establish that you are eligible for resentencing. To do this, he or she will need to include facts, proof, and legal arguments in your petition. Your attorney may even offer new evidence to support your petition. The government may oppose your petition.
If the court thinks that you are eligible to be resentenced, then the court will hold a hearing. At the hearing, the prosecutor must establish that you should not be resentenced. If the prosecutor fails to do this, the judge will order a resentencing. Alternatively, the prosecutor may agree that you are eligible for resentencing.
When you were originally sentenced, if the trial court determined that you were not a major participant in the felony, then you can now be resentenced under SB 1437.
After resentencing, you will be given credit for time served.
How a Top Appeals Lawyer Can Help
Winning a resentencing hearing requires skillful representation. Spolin Law P.C. is led by Aaron Spolin, a former prosecutor and award-winning criminal appeals lawyer. He is ranked in the top 1% of criminal law attorneys in California and is recognized as one of the “10 Best Criminal Law Attorneys” in California by the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys.
An excellent attorney can make a difference. The more thoroughly the attorney reviews the record, the more bases they can find to support the resentencing petition. We investigate the entire trial record, plea-deal record, and other court records to find every legal basis for reducing your sentence.
Spolin Law P.C.’s success rate is based on our forceful desire to win each case we handle. Call us at (310) 424-5816 to learn how we can handle your SB 1437 petition.