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How the Three Strikes Law Can Hurt Your Freedom

One, Two, Three Strikes, You’re Out

California’s Three Strikes law was implemented to decrease the rate of repeat offenders and encourage them to think twice before committing another criminal act. To accomplish this, the law increases the penalties for repeat offenders who’ve been convicted of a violent or serious felony and lowers the possibility for such offenders to receive a punishment other than prison. Thus, offenders are left with limited penalty alternatives and may suffer extensive jail time.

How the CA Three Strikes Law Works

Originally implemented in 1994, the Three Strikes law required that “ … a defendant convicted of any new felony, having suffered one prior conviction of a serious felony [be] sentenced to state prison for twice the term otherwise provided for the crime. If the defendant was convicted of any felony with two or more prior strikes, the law mandated a state prison term of at least 25 years to life,” according to The Judicial Branch of California.

In November 2012, the state revised the Three Strikes Law to include the following:

  1. In order to sentence a third-strike offender to 25 years to life in prison, their current conviction must be a serious or violent felony with two or more prior strikes.
  2. Offenders currently serving their third strike sentence may petition for it to be reduced to a second-strike sentence if they are eligible.

Effects of the Three Strikes Law

While these amendments are supposed to be “good” in the eyes of the law, California’s prison population is increasing significantly as a result. Prisons are filled with offenders who truly don’t need to be there, or are serving a sentence that is far too long. Thus, the cost of supporting and maintaining prisons is skyrocketing.

Not to mention, courts are experiencing serious backlog, as defendants subject to the Three Strikes law are doing everything they can to avoid a life sentence by demanding time-consuming trials. With courts already struggling to stay on top of their caseload, the Three Strikes law makes it nearly impossible to stay on track and enforce a speedy trial for the accused, which is protected by the Sixth Amendment.

As if these impacts aren’t prominent enough, a defendant may suffer a life sentence for a crime that doesn’t warrant such punishment. For example, if you were convicted of burglary two times in the last 5 years and got in a bar fight last week that involved a weapon and resulted in serious injury, you could serve 25 years to life in prison.

That’s a cruel and unusual punishment, which is a violation of the Eighth Amendment.

If a judge were to examine your third strike individually without considering your other two strikes, you would most likely serve a less severe sentence. Needless to say, the criminal justice system has its flaws, with the Three Strikes law being one of them.

If you are facing legal trouble and need an attorney who thoroughly understands the law to defend you, contact the Law Offices of Evan E. Zelig, P.C. at (707) 418-5352 for a free consultation! Our criminal defense lawyer has a proven track record for helping clients resolve their charges, and can fight for the same results on your behalf.