The state of California has a reputation for taking a tough stance on crime, a stance that for years has resulted in exceedingly harsh criminal penalties, excessive terms of imprisonment and overcrowding in California prisons. Not only that, but research has shown that longer prison sentences are not as helpful in reducing crime and recidivism as lawmakers once believed, which makes such lengthy prison sentences overly punitive. Fortunately, in recent years, efforts have been made to decrease the prison sentences associated with certain criminal convictions and offer relief to inmates already serving unreasonably long sentences in California prisons. If you were convicted and sentenced to a lengthy term of imprisonment under an old state law that has since been amended (SB 1437), or if you have served a significant portion of a long prison sentence and believe that you may be eligible to have the sentence recalled and reduced (AB 2942), don’t hesitate to contact Pat Ford Appeals to handle your case. With attorney Pat Ford on your side, you can ensure that your rights are protected and significantly improve your chances of your petition for resentencing being granted.
It’s no wonder that California has the second largest prison population in the United States, and the largest population of prisoners serving long-term sentences. The state has long been a proponent of tough-on-crime policies that impose harsh penalties for even low-level crimes and nonviolent offenders, not to mention violent crimes like felony murder. Fortunately, California lawmakers have made efforts recently to embrace criminal justice reform and reduce mass incarceration by passing new sentencing laws like Senate Bill 1437 and Assembly Bill 2942. Under SB 1437, inmates serving a sentence for a conviction under California’s old felony-murder law can petition to have their murder conviction vacated and their sentence reduced. Under AB 2942, prosecutors can revisit prior sentences and recommend a reduced sentence for inmates serving long-term sentences that are no longer in the interest of justice.
Successfully petitioning for resentencing under SB 1437 or AB 2942 is no easy task and there is no guarantee that your petition will be granted, which is why we always recommend hiring an experienced California criminal appeals lawyer who understands the ins and outs of the law and how to present a clear and accurate picture of your situation and the reasons why resentencing is appropriate. At Pat Ford Appeals, we know how frustrating it must be for convicted defendants to have to endure a prison sentence that is unnecessarily harsh, especially those who were convicted of felony murder even though they only served as an accomplice to the underlying felony and didn’t participate in the killing. Under these new state laws, with the help of criminal appeals attorney Pat Ford, inmates convicted under California’s old felony-murder law and those serving excessive prison sentences for old crimes can now file an SB 1437 petition or AB 2942 petition, respectively, to request a reduced sentence.
SB 1437 Petitions
Senate Bill 1437, “accomplice liability for felony murder,” was signed into law in September 2018, to revise California Penal Code § 188 and 189 PC and add PC § 1170.9, which reads as follows: “A person convicted of felony murder or murder under a natural and probable consequences theory may file a petition with the court that sentenced the petitioner to have the petitioner’s murder conviction vacated and to be resentenced on any remaining counts,” so long as certain conditions are met.
Prior to the passage of SB 1437, a defendant could be convicted of felony murder if, in the commission of a felony offense, a victim died, even if the killing was an accident, the defendant didn’t intend to kill the victim, the defendant didn’t directly participate in the killing, or the defendant didn’t know a homicide took place. The bill set forth new laws for the crime of felony murder, which, in the past, was used to unfairly prosecute accomplices to felony crimes where a killing took place, even in cases where the defendant wasn’t the actual killer. Under SB 1437, which went into effect in January 2019, the felony-murder rule now only applies in cases where a defendant acted with malice aforethought – which is what qualifies the killing of another person as murder – or committed, attempted to commit or participated in a specified felony crime and, in doing so:
- Directly killed someone,
- Did not directly kill someone, but, “with the intent to kill, aided, abetted, counseled, commanded, induced, solicited, requested, or assisted the actual killer in the commission of murder in the first degree,” or
- Was a “major participant” in the underlying felony crime and acted with “reckless indifference to human life.”
Also, under the new law, a defendant can be prosecuted for felony murder in California if, as a result of the defendant’s actions, a peace officer was killed while performing his or her job duties.
What SB 1437 Could Mean for You
Perhaps even more significant than what SB 1437 will mean for defendants in future felony-murder cases, the bill can be applied retroactively to past cases. That means inmates who were convicted under California’s old felony-murder law and are currently serving time in prison for first- or second-degree murder may be able to petition to have their murder conviction vacated and their sentence significantly reduced, which is where our firm comes in. According to the law, SB 1437 petitions should be submitted by the defendant him or herself, rather than a family member, and you should consult an attorney when filing such a petition, to determine whether you are eligible for resentencing under SB 1437 and to ensure that you complete the petition accurately and truthfully, to reduce the risk of the petition being denied. If you were an accomplice to a felony crime in California where someone died, but you only intended to commit the underlying felony and didn’t directly participate in the killing or contribute to the victim’s death, our reputable California criminal appeals lawyers can help you file a petition to change your sentence pursuant to the new felony-murder law.
AB 2942 Petitions
Assembly Bill 2942, which was passed in 2018, allows prosecutors in California to review past cases and recommend a sentence reduction if the sentence being served is “no longer in the interest of justice.” This includes defendants who have exhibited exceptional conduct during their incarceration, believe they have been rehabilitated and are ready to re-enter society, and those who received an original punishment that was excessive, overly punitive or disproportionately long based on the severity of the offense. A request for resentencing under AB 2942 can be brought to the county court by a district attorney in the county in which the prisoner was sentenced, or by another official, such as the Board of Parole for inmates in state prison or the county correctional administrator for inmates in county jail. Inmates and their loved ones can also petition the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for resentencing under AB 2942. If the resentencing request is granted by the court, the court will then hold a resentencing hearing, as if the defendant had never been sentenced, and provide a new term of imprisonment in accordance with current sentencing guidelines.
What Factors are Considered for Resentencing?
The purpose of AB 2942 is to allow for the reassessment of lengthy sentences imposed upon defendants who have obviously been rehabilitated during their incarceration yet still remain in custody serving long sentences. AB 2942 applies to any criminal offense and any type of sentence, and there are no requirements under this bill for serving a certain amount of time before being eligible for resentencing. When deciding whether or not to grant a request for resentencing, the court will consider a broad range of post-conviction factors, including:
- The inmate’s disciplinary record
- The inmate’s record of rehabilitation while in prison
- Whether the inmate’s risk of recidivism (reoffending) has been reduced
- Evidence that continued imprisonment does not serve justice, in light of circumstances that have changed since the original sentence was imposed
What AB 2942 Could Mean for You
Prior to the passage of AB 2942, there were limited ways in which inmates serving unnecessarily long prison sentences under outdated guidelines could petition to have their sentence reduced. With this new bill, district attorneys have the power to revisit old sentences and retroactively provide redress to inmates who deserve a second chance at freedom. Says Assemblymember Phil Ting, author of AB 2942, about the bill: “District attorneys have found that certain prison sentences, upon further review, are no longer in the interest of justice. Let’s give them a tool to revisit cases in which defendants were sentenced under outdated guidelines, have been rehabilitated and would benefit from a second chance.” If you have served a significant portion of an unjustly long prison sentence in California, and you believe you deserve to have your sentence recalled and reduced, now is the time to petition the court for a recall of sentencing under AB 2942. With a skilled and aggressive criminal appeals attorney on your side, you can ensure that your case is presented to the court in the best possible light and improve your chances of securing an early release from prison.
How Pat Ford Appeals Can Help
The criminal penalties associated with serious crimes like felony murder, which may include decades in a California state prison, a life sentence without the possibility of parole, or the death penalty, can be devastating for convicted defendants and their families. These harsh penalties are especially devastating for defendants who were wrongfully convicted of a violent crime and those who received an unreasonably harsh or overly punitive sentence as a result of their criminal conviction. Fortunately, the state of California has recently made significant efforts to transition from a decades-long “tough on crime” mentality to a new era of criminal justice reform, which has the potential to benefit hundreds, if not thousands, of inmates serving lengthy sentences in California county jails or state prisons. New laws like SB 1437 and AB 2942 are designed to reduce the terms of imprisonment for defendants who were sentenced under old laws and guidelines and are entitled to a reduced sentence or early release. If you plan to petition for resentencing or early release under SB 1437 or AB 2942, it is in your best interest to hire an experienced California criminal appeals attorney who can gather all of the pertinent information related to your crime, your sentence and your incarceration, and present it to the court in the most convincing way possible. A petition for release or resentencing under SB 1437 or AB 2942 is a new shot at freedom and that’s not something you want to leave up to chance or in the hands of an inexperienced lawyer. At Pat Ford Appeals, we specialize in how to file a criminal appeal in California, and if you qualify for resentencing under SB 1437 or AB 2942, we can help you cut years, or even decades, off your sentence.
Contact Our Law Firm for a Free Consultation
The purpose of the California criminal justice system is to investigate criminal offenses, prosecute those who are guilty and impose upon them a fair and just sentence that fits their crime. Unfortunately, the criminal justice system isn’t perfect, and it isn’t uncommon for defendants to be convicted of a crime they didn’t commit or sentenced to an unreasonably harsh term of imprisonment. The criminal justice system in California is also constantly changing and evolving, and the same laws that applied to your crime in the past may not apply today, which is why you need the help of a knowledgeable criminal appeals attorney who is up-to-date on the law when filing a SB 1437 petition or AB 2942 petition. If you or a loved one is serving a lengthy prison sentence and you believe you may qualify for early release, either because you have been rehabilitated or because the law has changed in such a way that you are now eligible for a reduction in your sentence, don’t hesitate to contact Pat Ford Appeals. We know what it takes to get SB 1437 and AB 2942 petitions granted and we will do everything in our power to help you get the second chance you deserve.