SB 1437 | Reduced Sentencing for Felony Murder Accomplices

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What SB 1437 Does

Senate Bill 1437 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:

  1. He/she participated in a serious felony (e.g., carjacking, robbery, burglary, etc…)

  2. 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.

New Felony Murder Rule:

Under the new felony murder rule (SB 1437) a person can only be guilty of “felony murder” if:

  1. The person is the actual killer.

  2. The person acted with intent to kill, such as assisting the actual killer, or encouraging the actual killer to kill the victim.

  3. The person was a major participant in the crime who acted with “reckless indifference to human life.”

  4. 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.”

To determine if a person was a “major participant” in a crime, the court may consider:

  • What role did the defendant have in planning the offense 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?

To determine if a person acted with “reckless indifference to human life,” the court may consider:

  • Knowledge of weapons;

  • Physical presence at the crime and opportunities to aid the victim;

  • Duration of the felony;

  • The defendant’s knowledge of the likelihood of a killing; and

  • The defendant’s efforts to minimize the risks of the violence during the felony

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.

How to Win Your SB 1437 Application—Do it Yourself vs Hiring an Attorney

Unite the People and our volunteers supported Senator Skinner and Co-sponsor group Re:Store Justice to win passage of SB 1437.

DIY Method:

Re:Store Justice and their policy director, Attorney Kate Chatfield, have created a DIY Petition and 32 Page Instructional Guidebook that can be downloaded for free.

Hiring an Experienced Attorney Method:

While we fully endorse the DIY petition and encourage everyone to use it if they feel comfortable doing so, there are many reasons to hire an attorney to help you with the process.

An excellent attorney can make a big difference. The more thoroughly the attorney reviews the record, the more bases they can find to support the resentencing petition. We will review the trial record, plea-deal record, and other court records to find every legal basis for reducing your sentence. Because we are a nonprofit organization, our attorneys are able to help at a much cheaper rate than any private law firm. We’ve also had proven success with SB 1437 petitions.

Contact us today for an initial consultation to determine whether the DIY method or hiring one of our attorneys is right for you:

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Judson Parker