Obviously a person who purposefully killed someone else has committed murder, but what about someone who accidentally killed someone while committing a crime like robbery? Or what about someone who drove a murderer to the scene of his crime? California law once considered such acts murder as well, but a new law that took effect in January of this year has changed that. Here’s what a Vista violent crimes lawyer believes you should know about the new law.
Only Murder is Murder
The new law makes a major change to what is defined as felony murder under California law. Previously, those who aided or abetted someone in a murder and those who accidentally took a life while committing another serious felony could be charged with murder. Even those involved in the felony who were unaware that someone was killed could still be charged with murder. For example, a getaway driver for a burglary could be charged with murder if someone was killed, even if they were not present during the actual killing.
Now those who were involved in a felony that resulted in the loss of life can only be convicted if they shared the intent to kill and aided and abetted in the killing or was a major participant in the underlying felony and acted with reckless indifference to human life. So, for example, if a robber pushes his victim out of the way and the victim stumbles on uneven flooring and hits his head on the ground, the prosecution would have a much harder time seeking a murder charge and an accomplice to the robbery would be unlikely to be charged with murder at all. Accomplices and those who accidentally killed someone during commission of a felony can still be charged with homicide.
The Impact of the New Law
Vista homicide defense attorneys are big proponents of the law as they feel now only those who actually murdered someone can be charged with murder. The law will also help clear out the state’s overcrowded prisons as it will allow somewhere between 400 and 800 prisoners to apply for re-sentencing, some of whom are already being released.
Perhaps the greatest impact will be on the women’s prison population. A recent study found that 72% of women serving a life sentence in California were not the person who actually committed the homicide. The new law could result in the majority of these women being released from prison or serving drastically shorter sentences.
It’s worth noting that the re-sentencing is not automatic, it must be applied for. If you or a loved one was convicted for murder and you believe the new law may allow for re-sentencing, a Vista violent crimes attorney can help you apply for re-sentencing.
If you have any questions about the new law or if you have been charged with murder or any other violent crime, please call Vista murder defense lawyer Peter M. Liss. You can schedule a free initial consultation by calling (760) 643-4050.
Creative Commons Image by Ralph Thompson