Many think the passage of California Senate Bill 1437 only impacted prior Penal Code 187 PC murder convictions. Those people now are saying they were improperly convicted because they were not significant participants in the murder.
They didn't act with reckless indifference to human life, and therefore, they should have never been convicted. That is a viable argument, depending on the facts and circumstances of the murder and what that person's role was.
But SB 1437 also impacts murder cases moving forward because the California Criminal Jury Instructions has been changed to reflect the new law.
Now, once a getaway driver could be held guilty under the old law of murder, even though they never shot anybody, not even got out of the car, and was not a participant in the crime, now they can't be held responsible because of the new law that has been inserted into the felony murder jury instruction.
That's an essential thing to know if you or a loved one has a PC 187 murder case pending in Los Angeles county or anywhere in surrounding counties in California that SB 1437 now makes it more difficult for the prosecutor to prove a murder case against every single participant in a robbery, for example.
The getaway driver is probably not going to get convicted of murder. They may get convicted for the robbery because they agreed to it and were part of it.
California Penal Code 187 defines the crime of murder as the unlawful killing of somebody with malice aforethought. First-degree murder includes all premeditated killings and felony murder involving a scenario where someone dies during a rape, carjacking, robbery, or other serious crimes.
Under Penal Code 187 PC, second-degree murder is a willful act, but not deliberate, and there was no premeditation. Any murder that doesn't fall under the umbrella of first-degree murder. Our California criminal defense lawyers will review further below.
What About Other People Involved in the Murder?
The question becomes, what about other participants in the murder other than the shooter? Of course, if you're the shooter, SB 1437 does not help you.
If you shoot and kill somebody, you'll be on the hook for Penal Code 187 PC murder if you've already been convicted. If you have a murder case pending and the prosecutors can prove that you shot and killed somebody and that there's no self-defense or other defense-related to the case, you will be convicted of murder regardless of Senate Bill 1437.
But on the other hand, if you were just a participant in the Penal Code 211 PC robbery, now an evaluation has to be done by a jury to determine whether or not you were a significant participant, whether you acted with reckless indifference to human life.
There's a jury instruction that the jury is going to be given. Of course, they're going to look at the facts and circumstances surrounding the robbery in our example, where somebody ends up dying or the murder, depending on precisely what happens.
Usually, you see this issue coming up in a situation where a robbery is being committed, and somebody dies. Because if participants agree to go murder somebody, and they're all in on the planning, everybody will get charged for it.
This is because they agreed from the beginning that they intended to kill somebody, and even if they weren't the triggerman, they'd be responsible because they were part of the planning. They were accomplices to the murder, and they'll get convicted.
What About Murder During the Commission of Another Crime?
Where this Senate Bill 1437 is coming up is this whole theory of felony murder where a felony is being committed. The best example is a robbery, and the people involved at the end, when it's all over and somebody dies; say look, I was only in for the PC 211 robbery.
I wasn't in for killing anybody. I didn't intend to kill anybody. I didn't shoot anybody. Why am I being held responsible for the Penal Code 187 PC murder?
That's where this whole felony murder rule originally came from. They were saying, look if you get involved in a robbery. You guys are using guns; it's perceivable that somebody can get killed, and therefore, you're going to be held responsible just like everybody else because you went in for a dime; in for a dollar – was the old way of thinking.
But now, after the passage of SB 1437, that's put a little twist on things, and that gives the defense a fighting chance, again, depending on the facts and circumstances of the case, bring about the worst possible consequences for people.
Why Do You Need a Criminal Lawyer?
So, if you need an attorney who will fight a case where the felony murder rule and the jury instructions are in play because you're going to go to trial, you will be trying to say I didn't kill anybody.
You must get the best criminal defense attorney on your side—someone who's battle-tested, who knows how to fight these prosecutors.
I've been doing this now for almost three decades. In 1994, I tried my first murder case and had been trying them since.
Also, due to the severity of the charges, the government will put its best prosecutors to try to case. They will have the best investigative team — the detectives who are part of the homicide unit in whatever police department is investigating the case.
You've come to the right place if you believe you shouldn't be held responsible for that murder. I've been doing this for 30 years. My name is Ron Hedding.
Early in my career, I worked for the District Attorney's office; I worked for a Superior Court Judge, and then in the 1990s, I started defending people just like you and have been doing it ever since.
Pick up the phone now and ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding. I stand at the ready to help you. The Hedding Law Firm offers a free case evaluation via phone or contact form.