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5 crimes that will get you “life without parole” in California

Posted by Neil Shouse | Mar 12, 2019 | 0 Comments

lwop california
Life Without Parole

5 crimes that will get you “life without parole” in California are:

  1. first-degree murder, per Penal Code 187;
  2. felony-murder, per Senate Bill 1437;
  3. rape, per Penal Code 261, if the defendant had a prior conviction of rape;
  4. sexual penetration, per Penal Code 289, if the defendant tortured the victim while committing the crime; and,
  5. lewd or lascivious acts, per Penal Code 288, if the defendant committed the crime during the commission of a burglary.

Life without parole (“LWOP”) is a prison sentence under California law in which a defendant is sent to the California state prison for the rest of his life without the possibility of parole.

What is first-degree murder, per Penal Code 187?

Murder can be charged as either "first-degree" or "second-degree" in California. First-degree murder is charged when a murder:

  • is accomplished by means of a destructive device, weapon of mass destruction, armor-piercing ammunition, poison, lying in wait, or torture; or
  • is done in a way that is willful, deliberate and premeditated.

First-degree murder generally carries a sentence of 25 years in prison to LWOP.

What is felony-murder, per Senate Bill 1437?

Under SB 1437, felony-murder is charged when a defendant:

  • directly kills a person in the commission of a felony, or in an attempted felony;
  • aids and abets the killing;
  • is a major participant in the killing; or,
  • when the victim was a peace officer engaged in the performance of his or her duties.

Felony-murder is punishable by either:

  • 25 years to life in California state prison;
  • LWOP; or,
  • the California death penalty.

What is rape, per Penal Code 261?

California Penal Code 261 defines the crime of "rape" as nonconsensual sexual intercourse accomplished by means of:

  • threats, force, or fraud, or
  • with a victim who is unconscious or incapable of consenting.

Rape is typically punishable by a maximum imprisonment in the California state prison for eight years. But, under California's “One Strike” Law, a defendant guilty of rape can be sentenced to life without parole if he had a prior conviction of rape.

What is sexual penetration, per Penal Code 289?

Penal Code 289 is the California statute that defines the crime of “forcible penetration with a foreign object.”

The legal definition is:

  • committing an act of sexual penetration with another person,
  • where that penetration is accomplished using a foreign or unknown object,
  • without the other person's consent,
  • through the use of force, violence, duress, menace, fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury, or a threat to retaliate.

Per California's One Strike Law, a person guilty of the crime can be punished with LWOP if the defendant tortured the victim while committing the crime.

What is lewd or lascivious acts, per Penal Code 288?

Penal Code 288 is the California statute that defines the crime of “lewd acts with a minor child.” The section defines a “lewd act” as either:

  • touching a child for sexual purposes, or
  • causing a child to touch him/herself or someone else for a sexual purpose.

Technically, this section applies when the victim is anyone under the age of 16.

Under the State's One Strike Law, a person convicted of this crime can be sentenced to life without parole if the defendant committed the crime during the commission of a burglary.

About the Author

Neil Shouse

Southern California DUI Defense attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT).

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