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Changes to California’s Felony Murder Rule

Signed into law last year and took effect on January 1, 2019, SB 1437 sets forth new rules for prosecutors and judges to charge a person with felony murder in California. In addition, the law gives hundreds of imprisoned individuals a second chance at release for murders they didn’t commit.

According to SB 1437, the court can charge a person with felony murder if one of the following applies:

  • Directly kills someone else while committing or attempting to commit a felony offense
  • Aids, abets, commands, requests, or induces the killing
  • Significantly contributes to the killing
  • The victim is an on-duty peace officer

Under the old felony murder law, a person could get convicted of felony murder if a victim passes away during the commission of the felony. So, even if the defendant didn’t intentionally kill another individual, wasn’t aware a homicide occurred, or accidentally killed another person, they could be charged with felony murder.

Felony Murder Rule in California

After a 1983 ruling, the California Supreme Court called the felony murder rule “barbaric” due to the lack of intent from culpability. SB 1437 enables hundreds of inmates imprisoned for felony murder to apply for resentencing. Essentially, many convicted individuals can go home even after being imprisoned for decades.

Although many prosecutors have applied revised felony murder rule and many state courts have upheld the reform as constitutional, there are some prosecutors who have challenged SB 1437.

If you have been charged with violent crime in Los Angeles or you have a loved one serving prison time for felony murder, contact Amber Gordon, Attorney at Law today at (310) 928-9505 and request a consultation.