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SB 1437 and SB 775 Petition

SB 1437 and SB 775 Petitions in California; Los Angeles Attorney Provides a Detailed Overview.

The laws in California are constantly changing. A major change came with the enactment of SB 1437 in 2019, and the enactment of SB 775, which came into effect on January 1, 2022. SB 1437 dramatically changed the felony murder laws and significantly limited who can be charged under the felony murder doctrine. SB 775 expanded SB 1437 to apply to cases of manslaughter and attempted murder.

SB 1437

Under SB 1437, in order for a person to be charged with or convicted of felony murder, the person has to participate or attempt to participate in a felony and:

  • The person is the actual killer;
  • The person acted with the intent to kill, by, for example, aided, abetted, induced, or assisted the actual killer in killing the victim;
  • The person was a “major participant” in the felony and acted with reckless indifference to human life; or
  • 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.”

Under SB 1437, a person is eligible to be resentenced if he or she meets all of the following three conditions:

  • The person was prosecuted for murder under a theory of felony murder or murder under the natural and probable consequences doctrine;
  • The person was convicted of first-degree or second-degree murder following a trial, or, accepted such charges as a plea offer; and
  • The person could not be convicted of murder under the new felony murder law.

SB 1437 is retroactive, which allows defendants that have been convicted under the old rule to petition the court to have their murder convictions vacated and their sentences recalled.

In order to appeal for a reduced sentence, a person has to file a petition with the court that sentenced them and serve a copy of the petition on the district attorney, and on the counsel who represented them at trial. The petition has to include a detailed declaration showing eligibility for a sentence reduction.

If the court finds that the petitioner meets the basic criteria for relief, the court will hold a Sentencing hearing where it will be determined whether the sentence will be reduced. At the hearing, the burden of proof shifts to the prosecution to prove beyond reasonable doubt, that the petitioner is guilty of murder under the revised laws, i.e. that during the commission of a crime, the person intended to kill or was a major participant and acted with reckless indifference to human life.

If the prosecution is unable to meet its burden of proof, then the new law requires the court to vacate the prior conviction and any allegations and enhancements attached to it, and to resentence the defendant on the remaining charges.

SB 775

SB 775 expands the scope of SB 1437 and covers cases of attempted murder and manslaughter. Under SB 775, a defendant who had been convicted of manslaughter under the old felony murder or the natural and probable consequences theories, or of attempted murder under the natural and probable consequences doctrine, is eligible for resentencing, if the defendant can demonstrate that he or she would not have been convicted of manslaughter or attempted murder under the new law.

Just like SB 1437, SB 775 is retroactive and petitions filed on the basis of SB 775 follow the same procedures as petitions filed under SB 1437.

If you believe you are eligible, or want to know whether you could potentially qualify to have your murder, attempted murder, or manslaughter charges vacated, the highly skilled and reliable attorneys at the Justice Firm are here to help and to answer any questions you might have. If you or a loved one has questions about these laws, or other post-conviction matters, contact our California appeals attorneys today for a case evaluation locally at (310) 914-2444 or at our Toll-Free number at (866) 695-6714, or click here.

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