Petition to Vacate Murder Conviction

The new California felony murder law allows convicts who believe their punishment is unfair to seek justice through resentencing for hearing. California Governor Jerry Brown signed this new Senate Bill 1437 on September 30th, 2018. SB 1437 has changed the felony murder law in California, limiting the people who can be prosecuted for murder to those who show intentions of committing a murder, or those who commit actual murder.

The good thing with this new law is that it is retroactive; meaning that people who were convicted or accused of felony murder during the old law can file a petition for resentencing. The resentencing could either have the charges dropped entirely or reduce the sentence. The main aim of the enactment of SB 1437 is to ensure that all criminal convictions in California are addressed fairly and help the reduction of overcrowding in California state prisons. This is because long criminal sentences that are not equivalent to the offender’s liability as the actual murderer are the leading cause of California prison overcrowding.

Negotiating these California criminal laws is not easy without an expert lawyer. If you have a relative or a close friend who was convicted and you feel the need to appeal the case for a second hearing, you might want to seek the services of a reliable lawyer. Long Beach Criminal Lawyer is a team of professional lawyers who are experienced and well-versed in everything to do with petition cases in California. Feel free to schedule a consultation with our lawyers, and we will explain the petition process and the best way to handle your case.

How Do I Bring a Motion for Petition Under The New California Law?

A motion for a petition, also called Motion for Resentencing (MFR), can be filed by the convict or their lawyer in the specific court that sentenced the defendant. In it, you should ask the judge to modify your sentence. Any prisoner can file this petition regardless of whether they were convicted of a misdemeanor or felony. Usually, the judge will give either of the following responses:

  1. Change the sentence

  2. Deny the petition

  3. Revoke the sentence

  4. Postpone the sentence

The court can only decide to change the penalty under the following circumstances:

  1. If a Judicial error was committed by the court

  2. If the sentence imposed on the defendant was illegal

  3. When a clerical error was made

It’s imperative to note that people eligible to modify their sentencing through petition are US citizens only. Filing this petition if you’re not a US citizen can lead to other legal penalties under immigration law, which can lead to deportation or other awful immigration consequences.

Requirements for Filing a Petition under the New California Senate Bill 1437

According to section 1170.95 of the California Penal Code in the new Senate Bill 1437, a convict who was prosecuted for felony murder or murder can file a petition for hearing according to natural and probable consequences theory. With this, the defendant’s murder conviction case can be resentenced or vacated entirely if only the following terms apply to the case:

  1. Due to the changes of section 188 and 189, which became effective on January 1st, 2019, the defendant cannot be prosecuted for first or second-degree murder

  2. If the person was convicted for a first or second-degree murder after accepting a plea offer, instead of going to trial, where they would be imprisoned for the crime

  3. The indictment or complaint was filed against the defendant, allowing the prosecutor to proceed as per the felony murder theory, or if the murder falls under natural and probable consequences creed

Requirements for a Successful Petition Under California Law

The petition can only be filed in the court where the petitioner was sentenced, or on the specific legal entity that prosecuted the defendant in the presence of the public defender, or criminal lawyer who represented them in the trial court. In situations where the judge who handled the case is not available for resentencing, the presiding judge should immediately appoint another judge who will take over that petition case. The petition should and must include the following:

  1. Based on the requirements mentioned above as per SB 1437, Sec 1170.95 of the California labor code, the petitioner should declare eligibility for relief

  2. The petition should show if the defendant is requesting for consultation of counsel

  3. The trial case year and the number of the defendant’s conviction should be available

However, in situations where the petitioner cannot provide any of the above-required information in this subdivision of the petition process, the court has the right to deny this petition without any prejudice or whatsoever. The defendant's petition case, therefore, will not proceed without this crucial information. Fortunately, lack of this information during this time will not prevent the petitioner from filing another petition in the future once the data is retrieved, as per California PC 1170.95(b).

What Can Make Me Ineligible for the Petition Under SB 1437/PC 1170.95?

It’s important to note that not all defendants are eligible for resentencing. In this new law, a person can only be convicted of felony murder or murder if they are guilty specifically on the following circumstances without the option to file a petition for relief:

  1. The petitioner helped the actual killer in the killing victim

  2. Attempting a felony or killing a person

  3. Being a major participant in a killing

  4. If the person killed was a peace officer trying to exercise their duties.

Formalities and Procedures of a Petition Hearing

In respect to Penal Code 1170.95(c) of California law, the prosecutor is supposed to file a response to the defendant’s petition case and provide it within sixty (60) days after getting the notice. After that, the petitioner will then file a reply to the case within thirty (30) days. However, the court can choose to extend the replies and response time, depending on both parties will of a good cause. If the petitioner proves to the court that they are entitled to relief, the court will then provide an order to proceed with the petition.

After the court issues an order to show cause within 60 days, the court will then schedule a hearing to determine whether to vacate the defendant’s case or resentence the defendant afresh as if they had not been sentenced before. However, the new petitioner’s sentence period should not be longer than the initial or previous sentencing. The deadline can always be lengthened for a good cause.

If there were prior evidence findings by the jury that the defendant did not act recklessly in respect for human life, or did not participate in the felony offense, the conviction case would be vacated or resentenced by the court. Also, the parties involved can choose to waive the resentencing hearing, stipulating that the offender is eligible for having the murder conviction case resentenced or vacated. (Penal Code 1170.95 (d) (1))

According to Penal Code 1170.95(d) (3) during the hearing, the whole burden is always on the prosecutor’s side to prove without a reasonable doubt that the petitioner is not eligible for the petition. If the prosecutor cannot provide concrete proof that the petitioner is ineligible for resentencing, the court will have to resentence the defendant using the charges remaining and vacate all the enhancements and allegations attached to that particular case. After that, both parties can only rely on the result transcripts of this petition’s hearing, or provide additional or new evidence.

For resentencing purposes, if the court finds that the petitioner is entitled to relief because the murder conviction case was generically charged, it will only indicate that the primary target offense was not legally charged. Therefore, the court has to redesign the conviction of the defendant’s charges as the felony or target offense to resentence.

If the petitioner’s case becomes a success, and they are resentenced, the prosecutor is obligated by law to provide credit to the defendant for the period they have served. The petitioner will then be released permanently. However, they will be supervised for the whole three (3) years after completion of their sentence (Penal Code 1170.95(g)).

Other Legal Ways a Criminal Sentence Can be Modified under California Law

Apart from filing a petition, below are four (4) different ways in which a convict’s sentence can be modified.

  1. Filing an appeal

    A defendant can request the higher court to consider the decision of a lower court that is, the trial court. The defendant will then appeal to request the jury to reconsider the sentence it charged them. However, an appeal is not another trial; the higher court does not examine new evidence, accept any new witness evidence, or retry a case. The main work of the appellate court or higher court is to review proceedings that happened at the trial court to determine if any errors were made that affected the defendant’s rights. If the appellant court or higher court finds that there was an error that prejudiced the defendant or the trial court made some legal errors, only then can a defendant’s case can be overthrown.

  2. Habeas corpus petition

    According to California Penal code 1473, a prisoner has the right to bring a court order of habeas corpus petition (HCP) to challenge the jury to change the conditions on which they are serving and the imprisonment sentence. Usually, a deadline for filing HCP is not strict as long as it’s filed while the prisoner is in custody. Habeas corpus petition is only used in extraordinary or extreme circumstances for cases that the judge refers to “exhausting one’s remedies.” However, if a defendant delays filing this petition, they will have to justify to the court the reasons for the delay in the petition.

  3. A prisoner can be recalled due to their health concerns

    When a prisoner’s health matters pose a significant health concern, they can be recalled under certain circumstances. Following California Penal Code 1170(e), the court may choose to recall a prisoner’s sentence only if:

    1. The convict’s freedom will not threaten people’s safety

    2. If the prisoner is in critical health conditions and about to die in six (6) months

    3. If the convict is medically incapacitated permanently, for instance, being in a coma.

  4. Court recall

    The court can choose to recall the sentence within one hundred and twenty (120) days after it has sentenced the prisoner without a Motion for Resentencing (MFR) being filed. If the judge decides to recall a sentence, they will have to order a new sentence for the prisoner, which should not be higher than the previous or initial sentence. Typically, the judge will have to reconsider several factors before recalling a prisoner’s sentence:

    1. Rehabilitation record of the inmate

    2. Disciplinary record of the prisoner

    3. The prisoner’s interest in seeking justice

    4. The prisoner’s risk or capability of future criminal violence.

California Penalties for Felony Murder under the New Senate Bill 1437

Depending on the facts of the case and the specific felony involved, non-felony murder can either be charged as first degree or second-degree murder. The penalties for these two degrees of felony murder are imposed with different legal penalties. That is;

  1. Sentences for first-degree felony murder

    First-degree murder is any willful and intentional murder. It can lead to the following consequences:

    • California life imprisonment without any possibility of parole

    • 25 years imprisonment

    • California death penalty under Penal code 190 PC.

  2. Second-degree felony murder

    This is any felony murder that does not qualify to be first-degree felony murder. A person convicted for this offense can be sentenced to fifteen (15) years imprisonment in a California state prison, as per Penal Code 190 PC.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding a Petition Under The New California Senate Bill 1437

  1. Am I eligible for the petition if I am Not US Citizen?

    California law does not allow non-citizens to file a petition under Senate Bill 1437. Violators of this rule can face heavy immigration punishment and can also be deported. Non-US prisoners who have been convicted for aggravated felonies cannot file a petition. Crime can only be referred to as an aggravated felony if the prisoner has been in prison or jail for more than one (1) year.

  2. What is the meaning of the petition, and where can I find it?

    Governor Jerry Brown signed SB 1437 on January 1st, 2018 allowing convicts who are eligible for relief to file a petition for resentencing. Store Justice prepares a form to be used by eligible prisoners to seek an appeal. This form is used to initiate proceedings in the trial court in which the prisoner was sentenced. In this case, the prisoner will have to find a lawyer to offer them legal representation for resentencing.

  3. Do I need an attorney for a petition?

    Laws relating to petition cases are not easy for a layperson to comprehend. If you think you are eligible for a petition or you have a relative convicted for criminal murder who is eligible, it’s always wise to seek the services of a lawyer for easy navigation of these laws.

  4. Can a person who is sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole get relief as per SB 1437?

    In respect to SB 1437, if the court finds that the petitioner did not act recklessly against human life or rather they were not a major participant in the criminal felony offense, then they can be resentenced or have the conviction vacated.

  5. What happens after you are released?

    After a prisoner completes their sentence, they will then be released under the county level or state supervision. The type of supervision an offender receives, in this case, is influenced by the California Penal Code. Non-violent or non-serious offenders are released on the supervision of the county, while serious offenders and violent convicts are released under state supervision.

  6. What is the meaning of vacating a criminal conviction?

    If the court finds evidence that there were legal errors during the trial period when the prisoner was convicted, the conviction case can be set aside and the prisoner released. With that, the criminal conviction case against the defendant is said to be vacated.

Find a Long Beach Criminal Lawyer Specializing in Petitioning Murder Convictions Near Me

Laws relating to the petition for a murder charge conviction in the new Senate Bill 1437 of California Penal Code 1170.95 can be very confusing to a layperson. To increase the chances of getting freedom, you need to seek the services of a competent attorney for legal representation. Long Beach Criminal Attorney is a team of attorneys who are experienced in handling various criminal cases with many different clients, which has earned us the necessary skills to maneuver any petition case to vacate a murder conviction. We serve clients convicted near Long Beach. Feel free to call us at 562-308-7807, and schedule a free consultation with reliable and understanding experts today.

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