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How California's Three Strikes Law Works

Originally enacted in 1994, California’s Three Strikes sentencing law requires, among other things, a minimum sentence of 25 years to life for three-time repeat offenders with multiple prior serious or violent felony convictions. Supporters of the law have argued that imposing lengthy sentences to repeat offenders, who are perhaps the most difficult criminals to manage, would reduce crime in two ways:

  1. Removing repeat felons from society for longer periods of time restricts their ability to commit crimes.
  2. The threat of long sentences would discourage some repeat offenders from committing more crimes.

Now that we understand why three strikes was enacted, who exactly does it affect? According to the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, a strike must be a serious or violent felony, such as:

  • Murder and attempted murder
  • Manslaughter
  • Rape
  • Sexual abuse of a child
  • Kidnapping
  • Robbery
  • Any offense punishable by 10 years or more, which includes the use of force

If a person has one previous serious or violent felony conviction, the sentence for a new felony conviction (could be any, doesn’t have to be serious or violent) is twice the term otherwise required under law for the conviction. If a person has two or more previous serious or violent felony convictions, the sentence for any new felony conviction is a minimum of 25 years to life imprisonment without the chance of parole. Unlike other prisoners, “strikers” (as they’re known) cannot reduce time spent in prison by more than 1/5 (as opposed to the standard 1/2) by earning credits from work or education.

If you have been arrested for a felony, contact our Santa Rosa criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Evan E. Zelig, P.C. today. We have over a decade of experience to put in your corner. Call (707) 418-5352 to schedule a free consultation.