Everything You Need to Know About SB 1437 Resentencing in California

SB 1437 was designed to make significant changes to the way the felony murder rule is administered in California. Unlike many similar bills, this one is retroactive, meaning a person who was formally sentenced under the felony murder rule might be eligible for resentencing. If you believe you or a loved one is eligible for resentencing, contact Simmons Wagner, LLP at (949) 439-5857 to learn more.

The Basics of SB 1437

SB 1437 (Senate Bill 1437) was a bipartisan bill to amend the felony murder rule in California. The said rule was designed to hold people responsible for first-degree murder if they were involved in committing a felony and a person was murdered during that felony. In order to be convicted of first-degree murder under the felony murder rule, the defendant need not have been involved in the killing, been aware of the killing or intended for anyone to be killed.

SB 1437 updates the rule and holds that not all co-defendants in a criminal case necessarily share equal blame for a death that occurred during the commission of a crime. Now, prosecutors are not able to charge someone with felony murder unless that person was actually the murder or otherwise assisted the person who murdered the victim.

This Senate Bill also makes thousands of people in California eligible to be resentenced. This might apply to you if you were convicted of felony murder before 2019. The best way to find out what your options are is to talk to an attorney.

Determining Eligibility for Resentencing

Since the felony murder rule still exists, just in a modified form, not everyone who has been convicted under this rule is now eligible for resentencing. In order to qualify, a person must fit into one of these three scenarios:

  1. A person convicted of first-degree murder under the felony murder rule who did not kill, intend to kill, or participate in the felony with reckless indifference to human life;
  2. A person who was convicted of second-degree felony murder;
  3. A person who is convicted as an accomplice to a crime under the second-degree natural and probable consequences doctrine who did not kill or act with malice in the murder.

Persons convicted of felony murder on a basis not covered above are not eligible for resentencing due to SB 1437. If you are not sure what you were convicted of specifically, you can contact the attorney who last represented you at trial or on appeal.

It is important to note as well that just because a person qualifies due to one of the above three scenarios, this does not mean that they will still qualify for resentencing. They must also:

  • Not have killed anyone
  • Not have intended to kill anyone or aid or encourage the killing
  • Not acted as a major participant

Further, the victim could not have been a police officer who was in the course of doing their job, unless the defendant did not know the victim was a police officer and it was not apparent in the circumstances.

How to File a Petition to Be Resentenced Under SB 1437

Unfortunately, amended sentencing is not automatic. If you are serving a sentence for felony murder, you can file a petition by submitting various declarations re: your conviction. The petition must then be mailed to the District Attorney or Attorney General (whichever office prosecuted your case) as well as to your attorney or the Office of the Public Defender.

It is important that you do not make any mistakes when filling out and filing your petition. Even a minor error has the potential to get your petition denied, which is one of the many reasons it is advised to talk to a criminal defense attorney before proceeding.

Remember too that this is a relatively new Bill and as such there can be some legal questions. It is best to have an experienced attorney to advise you. You have found that in Simmons Wagner, LLP. Call our offices at (949) 439-5857 to request a consultation at your convenience.