In Hawaii, Governor David Ige has put his signature on a new law that is going to alter the way that the courts look at first-degree murder. Known officially as House Bill (HB) 1726, it is being called "Joel's Law." It's named after Joel Botelho, a man who was murdered in 2011, when he was shot near his parents' house.

The Old and New Definitions

Before this law was passed, first-degree murder wasn't used very often. It was typically used when a hired killer was involved, when there were numerous victims, or when specific legal protections had been given to the victim prior to the killing. These rare circumstances did come up, but people began to think that the definition needed to be more broad so that the charges could be used more often.

Thanks to Joel's Law, that is going to happen. Now, first-degree murder can be used when someone is taken hostage, when a ransom is demanded, or when those accused of murder grabbed the person with the intent of using him or her as a shield, leading to the individual's death.

A Mother's Statement

When the law passed, Joel's mother said that she looked at it as the start of the reform process. She said that laws had to address situations where people were "brutally killed and maimed, dismembered, [and] executed." She said that was her goal all along while championing the bill in the memory of her son.

The person who killed Joel was put behind bars for life. There is a possibility of parole, though. With a first-degree murder charge, there would be no chance for parole. That's one of the biggest differences these charges will make in a real-world sense, if they are used instead of lesser charges.

Strict Sentencing

As the laws grow more harsh and the ramifications increase, it's important for those who have been accused of violent crimes to know how their rights are changing. Not only can this help to define the criminal defense tactics, but it can also help make sure that the charges really fit the crime.