After spending months in the California state legislature, Senate Bill 775 was just signed into law yesterday, October 5, 2021, by Governor Gavin Newsom. This revolutionary new bill will change the lives of hundreds of California inmates, resulting in many individuals leaving prison decades before they would otherwise be free.
California criminal appeals attorney Aaron Spolin explains this new law, how it will affect criminal cases, and how prison inmates can achieve their freedom if their cases fall under the law. Mr. Spolin’s extensive analysis has been published in video and article form, viewable here. The following information explains the history of the law and some details about its application.
What Is Senate Bill 775?
This bill, sponsored by District 13 senator Josh Becker, was introduced to the State Senate on February 19th, 2021, passed by the Senate on June 2nd, and passed by assembly on September 10. Now, just leaving the Governor’s desk, this recently signed bill will serve justice to those wrongly convicted of a killing by expanding on the legal protections stipulated in Senate Bill 1437.
How Does SB 775 Expand on SB 1437?
Senate Bill 1437, passed in 2018, prohibited prosecutors from seeking first or second-degree murder sentences for a “felony murder” case in which the person on trial was “not the actual killer, did not act with the intent to kill, or was not a major participant in the underlying felony who acted with reckless indifference to human life.”
Senate Bill 1437, and now its counterpart Senate Bill 775, challenged the previously established “natural and probable consequences doctrine” under which someone’s malice was implied solely by their participation in the crime.
As these bills sought to highlight, such a concept had many flaws and fails to consider many very probable scenarios. As a result, those who may have participated in a crime, but were unaware of the killing and had no intent to inflict harm were put behind bars for murder in the first or second degree alongside the killer themself.
However, while Senate Bill 1437 was the first legislation to initially highlight this disparity in the criminal justice system, it did have some holes of its own that Senate Bill 775 hopes to fill and address; among the largest being the expansion of the Senate Bill 1437 protection to those convicted of manslaughter and attempted murder, not just murder.
Prior to the passage of Senate Bill 775, defendants in these situations would oftentimes plead guilty to a lesser charge than murder, like manslaughter, with hopes of a shorter sentence and a chance at a normal life once again. However, in doing so, these people cut themselves out of the chance to receive the post-conviction relief offered solely to murder convicts under Senate Bill 1437. Additionally, individuals convicted of attempted murder paradoxically received a worse outcome than those convicted of murder.
Senate Bill 775 has changed that, now allowing those with attempted murder and manslaughter convictions to petition to have those crimes (and the corresponding sentences) removed. Having this relief granted is not guaranteed, however, as they and their lawyer will need to convince a judge that they were not a “major participant who acted with reckless indifference to human life.”
How Spolin Law P.C. Will Use SB 775 To Benefit Clients
This update to California state legislation will have a grand and positive impact on the work done at Spolin Law P.C. With this extra layer of protection for those convicted of attempted murder or manslaughter, many individuals can now get the justice that was once awarded to felony murder cases.
To learn if you may be eligible for such post-conviction action or if you have any questions about SB 775, feel free to reach out to your (310) 424-5816 to begin your petition for a sentence reduction.