On January 1, 2019 Senate Bill 1437 (SB 1437) took effect, and it is changing the lives of convicts serving time in prison for murders that they did not commit. Prior to this, many individuals were convicted of murder under the Felony Murder Rule. The Felony Murder Rule allows a defendant to be convicted of murder during a felony regardless of whether the defendant actually killed someone. 

With SB 1437 in place, the accomplice can only be convicted of murder if they are deemed a “major participant” in the felony and acted with reckless indifference to human life. Now, many who were convicted of murder can petition for resentencing to get their sentence reduced. 

In order to be eligible for resentencing under SB1437, the following must apply:

The convicted must have:

  • Not been the actual killer
  • Had no intention to kill
  • Was not a major participant or did not knowingly participate in a felony that involves great risk of death 
  • The victim was not an on-duty officer

In determining whether the defendant was a major participant in the felony, the California Supreme Court considers several factors regarding the defendant’s role in the crime. These factors include, but are not limited to:

  • The role of the defendant in the felony
  • The location of the defendant at the time of the killing
  • The awareness that the defendant had of the dangers of the felony
  • The actions or inactions the defendant took once the murder was committed 

The SB 1437 does not apply to those who were guilty of acting with reckless indifference.

To determine if the defendant acted with reckless indifference, the California Supreme Court has guidelines to determine if the participant “acted with reckless indifference to human life.” The California Supreme court considers the defendant’s:

  • Knowledge of the likelihood that a killing could occur
  • Knowledge of weapons and equipment used in the felony
  • Actions taken in order to minimize the chance of violence during felony

If you or someone eligible for re-sentencing under the SB 1437, –for example from a Life Sentence to something less–then the best thing to do is contact us to seek assistance in filing a petition under the SB 1437. This new law gives prisoners who aren’t murderers the opportunity to gain their freedom back.