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Capital Punishment in California

Posted by Dan Kann | Dec 07, 2016 | 0 Comments

Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, has had an erratic history [1] in the state of California.  Although the use of capital punishment was written into the state penal code in 1872, it was declared unconstitutional in 1972, reinstated in 1977, halted in 2006, and included on ballot measures in 2012 and again in 2016. 

Concern over California's death penalty is appropriate.  After all, California's death row is the largest in the country.  As of July 1, 2016, there were 741 offenders on death row in California.[2]  One of the largest contributors to death row is Los Angeles county and, since 2013, it has ranked as one of the two most prolific counties in the United States because of its tendencies to impose death sentences.

November 2016 California Ballot Measures

On November 8, 2016, Californians reaffirmed their support for capital punishment as they voted on two competing initiatives.[3]  Proposition 62, a ballot measure that would have eliminated the death penalty and replaced it with life in prison without parole, was rejected.  On the other hand, Proposition 66,[4] the capital punishment initiative to reform the death penalty, was passed with 51% support from voters.

Proposition 66 maintains the death penalty but accelerates its application by enacting a five-year time limit on legal challenges by a condemned prisoner.  It also requires inmates on death row to work, with the wages earned going towards restitution for their victim's families.  

Imposition of Death Penalty

In California, a defendant can be convicted of capital murder and sentenced to receive the death penalty, or life imprisonment without parole, if convicted of first degree murder, and if the murder involved a special circumstance.  According to Section 190.2 of the California Penal Code,[5] there are over twenty special circumstances which will elevate first degree murder to capital murder. Among them are torture, lying in wait, multiple murders, felony murder, or killing a peace officer.  If you or a loved one have been accused or charged with any of these serious California crimes, it is important to contact an Ventura or Los Angeles criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to begin to build your defense.

Experienced Death Penalty Representation

Although the death penalty is reserved for only the most serious California crimes, it is not without controversy including everything from wrongful convictions to botched executions. One of the factors that determine whether or not a defendant receives the death penalty is the quality of their legal representation. Lawyers experienced with death penalty representation can help to limit the consequences by appealing cases to higher courts, negotiating plea agreements with prosecutors, or working to have death sentences commuted to life imprisonment. 

Contact Los Angeles and Ventura Death Penalty Attorneys

Whether you or a loved one have just been charged with a capital offense or are currently on death row, you need a diligent death penalty attorney.  Contact the experienced team of criminal defense attorneys at the Kann Criminal Defense Group for assistance. Call our toll-free number 888-744-7730 today or use our online contact form.



[1] California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

[2] Death Penalty Information Center

[3] Ballotpedia

[4] The New York Times

[5] California Penal Code

About the Author

Dan Kann

Daniel E. Kann has devoted his entire legal career exclusively to defending individuals facing criminal prosecution in Southern California. Dan fights criminal cases throughout Los Angeles, Ventura, Orange, Kern, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties.


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