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If you or a loved one has been accused of homicide you should contact an Attorney as soon as possible.  As someone that had tried 7 First Degree Murder casses and handles at least a dozen more Homicide cases and attending and completed the Death Penalty conference.  I have the know how to get you through this.  Nothing in this article is meant as legal advice you need to contact an experienced criminal defense Attorney as soon as possible.  As an Attorney with more than 18 years experience and more than 50 felony Jury trials we can help.

Below I will be going through some of the Homicid law and the changes that hav occurred recently which made a lot of changes to both the Homicide law and defenses available to people. 

WHAT IS SB 1437 ?

SB 1437 is California legsilation which made major changes to Homicide law in the state of California.  The legislature in the state of California decided that some of the Murder liability was way to broad and they needed to change the law to make it more limited.  

OLD LAW BEFORE SB 1437

The way the law stood before sb 1437 as to both Felony Murder law and Natural Probable consequences were very broad.  And the way prosecutors used the laws was so expansive and confusing that jurors would not have to find very much to find a person guilty of First Degree Murder.  Making it more complicated was the fact that prosecutors dont have to prove and jurors did not have to agree on the theories as to how the person accused was guilty of Murder.  For example the prosecutore can make arguments saying a person is guilty of Murder under a Felony Murder Rule theory a  natural proble consequence theory and accomplice liabilty theory and then throw all those theories to the jury and hope for a guilty verdice.  Aslo under the old theory of Felony Murde before changes under sb 1437 there could a person sitting in a car as a lookout for a Robbery someoene inside kills somoene and under a foreseability doctrine that person sitting in the car could be held liable for First Degree Felony Murder and be put in jail for a term of 25- to life.  That was not a very high bar for the prosecution to leap over. 

Making it easier the prosecutor could also ask for a Murder conviction under the So- called NATURAL AND PROBABLE CONSEQUENCE THEORY of liability.  Under this theory the prosecutor would simply have to show a person did an act inherently dangerous to human life and the natural and probable consequence was death. He or she could argue both theories and then leave it up to the jurors, who do not have to agree as to the theory as to wether the person was guilty of Murder.   As you can see this left a lot of confustion and not a lot of proof. 

HOW DID SB 1437 CHANGE THE LAW?

The new law made a lot of changes and narrowed the liability and eliminated one of the above theories therefore, tiightening up the law and making the jurors do more factual analysis of the actual actions of the individual person.  And it should be pointed out that these changes deal with the person that did not pull the trigger the same analysis would be made before and after sb 1437 for persons that pulled the trigger.

NATURAL AND PROBABLE CONSEQUENCE THEORY IS ELIMINATED

Under sb 1437 Natural and Probable consequences theory is eliminated.  The prosecution can no longer use this theory to convicte somoene of Homicide eliminating one theory that the jurors could use to convict.  Also the so called second degree felony murder rule was eliminated although it was rarely if ever used by prosecutors. 

FELONY MURDER RULE

There were two major changes to this law.

1.  The prosecution must prove that the non principal or non killer was a major participant in the underlying crime

2.  That he acted with Reckless indifference to human life when he acted 

both of these factors must be present to hold the non shooter for example liable

FACTORS

The juros will look at the individual factors to determine if the person is liable under these theories. 

MAJOR PARTICIPANT FACTOR EXAMPLES

How close was the person to the actual crime

Did he try to stop the offense

Did he know the person was armed

Did he give him the gun

and the jurors can consider any other factors that are relevant to this factor

RECKLESS INDIFFERENCE TO HUMAN LIFE

The factors here may have some overlap with the above-factors such as gun use

proximaty to the actual crime

did he flee afterward

did he try to help the victim

did he see the offense happen

These changes make it easier for the Jurors to look at the actual participation of the person and wether they themselves should be punished with Felony Murder.  If you have any questions after reading this article give us a call at 559 441-1418. 

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Gerald Schwab, Jr.

CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY & DUI ATTORNEY SERVING ALL OF CALIFORNIA

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Fresno Criminal Defense Attorney
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Fresno, CA 93704
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