California State Supreme Court Rules on Getaway Drivers

Last Modified: October 15, 2020
July 13, 2015 | Rabin Nabizadeh | Homicide, Murder

Until quite recently, the driver of a getaway car involved in an armed robbery with fatalities could not only be tried and convicted of murder, but could also have been put to death by the state.  Now, in a unanimous decision, the California state Supreme Court has determined that getaway drivers may no longer be considered a capital crime.  The original case before the court involved the robbery of a medical marijuana dispensary in Los Angeles.  During the course of the incident, a security guard was shot and killed.  An individual man was responsible for driving the getaway car, but, the court says, he could not have known that the robbery would end in death and, therefore, could not be accused of murder, nor be given a life sentence without parole or be subject to California’s death penalty.

This marks a significant moment in the history of California law.  Although it is certain that the getaway driver involved in the occurrence at the marijuana dispensary will spend a lengthy period of time in prison, this is due more to the fact that he had priors than the one particular case at hand.  In addition, California defense attorneys and defendants in similar cases have cause for hope that the newly composed state Supreme Court may be a but more open-minded when it comes to fairness from a legal perspective.

The original sentencing guidelines originate from a ballot measure that passed in 1990.  This ballot measure created sentencing guidelines that included a death sentence or life without parole for anyone who could be proven an accomplice in a crime involving a fatality, even when there was no solid proof that the individual knew that there would be a death.

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