Articles Tagged with sentencing

Changes to California’s felony murder rule with respect to accomplices has been the subject of the last posts. For background information on accomplice liability in California, click here. Access our last post for the background on SB-1437 and how it applies to new cases. The following post will examine the application of SB-1437 to past cases.

I am Already Serving a Life Sentence for Felony Murder as an Accomplice, is There Anything I can do to Get out of Jail Sooner?

SB-1437 contains a provision for defendants that have already been convicted of felony murder and were an accomplice in the original charge. Keep in mind that as an accomplice you are liable for the underlying felony. Any time allotted to the underlying felony must be served. The sentence that is reduced or eliminated has to do with the murder. The practical effect of the new law is less time in prison for individuals charged with felony murder as an accomplice after September 30, 2018.

Individuals serving time for felony murder as an accomplice before September 30, 2018, are now able to petition the court for a reduced sentence if they did not kill or intend to kill the victim in the felony murder charge.

SB-1437 provide a means of vacating the conviction and resentencing a defendant when a complaint, information, or indictment was filed against the defendant that allowed the prosecution to proceed under a theory of first degree felony murder or murder under the natural and probable consequences doctrine, the defendant was sentenced for first degree or second degree murder or accepted a plea offer in lieu of a trial at which the defendant could be convicted for first degree or second degree murder, and the defendant could not be charged with murder after the enactment of this bill.

Serving Time for Felony Murder as an Accomplice?

SB-1437 requires the participation of district attorneys and public defenders in the resentencing process. The individual appears in court again to be resentenced. Your attorney will address the mitigating circumstances and facts that demonstrate that you acted as an accomplice in the underlying felony but did not commit the homicide or intend to commit the homicide. It is critical that you contact the San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney if your loved one is incarcerated to discuss the possibility of a resentence for a felony murder conviction as an accomplice. Continue reading

This is the final installment of a six-part series on what to expect in California if you face felony criminal charges. Take a look at our past posts in the series and get to know the other steps of the felony arrest in California process.

The prior posts are:

The final step of the felony arrest process in California is sentencing. This is by far the most nerve-wracking time for people accused of crimes. By now, you have met the judge and prosecutors on your case, your attorney has kept you informed of the developments and challenges in your case, and you also have a basic understanding of maximum punishments and fines that can be assessed. What is missing, of course, is the judge’s decision.

Step 6: Sentencing

Whether you reach the sentencing phase by plea or after trial, every person charged with a felony in California will be sentenced or have punishment imposed. A sentencing hearing occurs after the trial and before the judge issues his or her sentencing decision. Some judges will provide the accused with a sentencing commitment, which is a preview of the judge’s sentencing decision; others wait until after the sentencing hearing to communicate their decision.

At the sentencing hearing, each side is afforded an opportunity to present and explain what type of sentence or sentence considerations the judge should consider when assessing punishment in the case. From a defense perspective, mitigating circumstances, prior positive community involvement, and lenient treatment are advocated. From the prosecution’s perspective, victim impact statements and harsher penalties are presented for the judge’s consideration.

After hearing both sides, the judge may sentence the criminal defendant to prison for a fixed time-period, a life sentence, or death in capital punishment cases. Other forms of permissible punishment include the assessment of fines, penalties and surcharges, and the assessment of conditions, like parole or mandatory alcohol and drug treatment. Especially in sexual assault matters, the accused person may be required to register in Sexual Offender Registries and have conditions imposed on where they may live after serving time.

Three Strikes Law

For individuals convicted of two or more violent crimes or serious felonies, a third felony conviction will automatically trigger the three strikes law. The three strikes law compels the judge to impose a life sentence, removing all other punishment options at the sentencing phase regardless of any mitigating circumstances.  

Death Penalty

A death sentence is the most severe punishment for someone charged with a felony. According to the Los Angeles Times, the California Supreme Court in August 2017 kept in place a measure passed by voters to speed up executions. Due to delays and legal challenges, the state of California has not executed a prisoner in a decade. Continue reading

In a new coalition called Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration created by 130 police chiefs, prosecutors, and sheriffs, lawmakers from across the nation recently met in Washington, D.C. to address criminal justice reform. The coalition met with President Obama to figure out ways to push for alternatives to arrests, restore balance to criminal laws, reform mandatory minimum prison sentences, and strengthen community law enforcement relationships.   

San Diego County District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis was amongst the leaders to join the coalition to develop ways to safely reduce the nation’s incarceration rate. According to the group, the “incarceration rate in the United States has reached a crisis point.” The group specifically pointed to the changes needed to be made to keep low-level offenders or the mentally ill out of the system. The push for reform comes as law enforcement nationwide has tried to restore its relationship with the community in the face of the disparate impacts that incarceration has on communities of color.

Some of the focus areas the coalition has identified include: