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What Is California’s Felony Murder Law?

In January of 2019, a new felony murder law went into effect in California that raised the standards prosecutors had to meet to land a murder conviction. The legislation applies to cases in which a person was an accomplice to a criminal offense and another individual died during the commission of the crime.

Old and New Felony Murder Evidence Standards

Under California’s old law, prosecutors had to prove nothing more than that the person on trial was present when someone died during a crime. They did not have to show that the defendant intended to kill the other individual or that they had a big part in carrying out the felony.

Now, the bar is higher for prosecutors to demonstrate that the defendant should be found guilty of felony murder.

For a person to be convicted of felony murder, the prosecutor must prove that:

  • A felony took place, and the defendant attempted to commit, committed or participated in the act;
  • The defendant killed another individual during the course of the crime;
  • The defendant helped another person kill someone else and they intended for that individual to die;
  • The defendant played a significant role in committing the crime and showed disregard for another’s life; or
  • The commission of the offense resulted in the death of a police officer

A person convicted of felony murder could spend years behind bars. With standards being so low previously and penalties being so high, punishments for this offense seemed unfair, especially because the defendant did not cause another person’s death.

New Law Applies to Past Cases

In California, many people have been convicted of felony murder. The new law applies retroactively, which means those found guilty in the past could petition to have their case re-examined. If the prosecutor can’t bring forward evidence that satisfies the updated standards, the defendant could be resentenced for the underlying offense that led to the felony murder charge.

Call Corrigan Welbourn Stokke, APLC for Skilled Legal Defense

Being charged with murder, especially if you did not carry out the act, could be a frightening experience. If convicted, you could be sentenced to years in prison, affecting your entire life. Our team is ready to provide the legal defense you need to fight charges and minimize the effects of a conviction on your life.

Schedule a free consultation today by calling us at (949) 251-0330 or contacting us online.