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How Do Special Circumstances Impact California Murder Cases?

Inside a jail cell with bars on the window.

The San Jose Spotlight, a digital news source that highlights stories in San Jose and throughout California, recently brought attention to possible reforms that California needs to make to its sentencing laws. According to the report in the Spotlight, when two people are convicted of the same crime but receive different sentences, that is usually the result of special circumstances.

Special circumstances in a murder case are factors that can elevate a murder case to the level of a capital offense, which means that if found guilty, the defendant can be sentenced to life in prison without parole or the death penalty. California Penal Code 190.2 PC includes a list of factors that can result in special circumstances being imposed on a murder charge, such as:

  • Murdering a witness, judge, juror, prosecutor, police officer, firefighter, federal agent, or government official
  • A prior murder conviction
  • Committing murder using a bomb or poison
  • Murder that involves torture
  • Murdering someone because of their religion, nationality, or race

Senate Bill 300 (SB 300), a new piece of legislation, may change how special circumstances work in California.

What Is Senate Bill 300?

Senate Bill 300 would allow judicial discretion to trump special circumstances. That means that judges would be able to order a sentence other than the death penalty or life in prison without parole when a murder conviction involves special circumstances.

This would be a good thing, because no two criminal convictions are alike, even if they involve similar crimes and special circumstances. Allowing judges who are familiar with the details of the case to use their discretion when it comes time to handout the sentence is a more just option than the current system.

Speak with Our Santa Barbara Criminal Defense Attorneys Today

At Appel & Morse, we have a long history of helping people facing criminal charges get their charges reduced or dismissed. We understand what it takes to protect our clients’ legal rights and secure the most favorable outcome possible for their case.

To learn more about Appel & Morse, and how we’ve helped others overcome criminal charges over the years, read our clients’ testimonials.

For more information about special circumstances, give us a call at (805) 467-6060 or reach out to us online today for a free consultation. We’re available during regular business hours, as well as evenings and weekends.

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