California’s New Felony Murder Rule

Thu 11th July, 2019 Criminal Law

Last year, California passed a new law with regards to the concept of felony murder. Under California Senate Bill 1437, the new rules specifically designate when a person can be tried for felony murder and the necessary intent behind the crimes. The new felony murder rule has the potential to significantly impact the outcome of people accused of participating in crimes that resulted in the death of another person, but only a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney should handle this type of case. If you have been accused of felony murder, call or contact the Law Office of Bradley S. Sandler for top-quality legal representation in your case.

Changes to the California Felony Murder Rule

Under the old felony murder rule in California, a defendant could be convicted of the offense if a person died during the commission of a felony. Intent was not at issue under the old rule, so a person could be convicted even if the defendant did not intend to kill a person, did not know that the homicide took place, or if the killing was an accident. Under the new rule that went into effect on January 1st this year, a person now commits felony murder if the defendant commits, attempts, or participates in a felony and at least one of the following is true:

  • The defendant kills a person
  • The defendant aids or abets in the commission of a murder in the first degree with an intent to kill
  • The defendant was a major participant in the felony and acted with reckless indifference to human life
  • Because of the defendant’s acts, a peace officer was killed while in the performance of his or her duties

Penalties for Felony Murder in California

Similar to a regular murder charge, felony murder is split into two categories — first degree and second degree felony murder. For a second degree murder felony charge, conviction can mean between 15 years to life in a California state prison. For a first degree felony murder conviction, the penalty can be 25 years to life in a state prison, life without the possibility of parole, or the death sentence depending on the specifics of the case.

Defenses to the New Felony Murder Rule

If a person is accused of first or second degree felony murder under the new law, there are a few possible defenses for their case. The first is that there was no felony committed or attempted when the loss of life occurred. The second is that the defendant had no intent to kill, and the third is that the accused was not a major participant in the crime. An experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to review the facts of your case to determine what the best possible arguments are to combat an accusation of felony murder.

Contact Our Office Now

If you or a loved one has been accused of felony murder under the new California law, do not hesitate to call or contact the knowledgeable criminal defense team at the Law Office of Bradley S. Sandler in the Los Angeles area today.