How Does CA’s Three Strikes Law Work?
California’s Three Strikes law mandates harsher penalties for individuals convicted of crimes on one or more occasions. It applies when the prior offenses are serious or violent felonies. The specific crimes that can be classified as strikes include burglary, murder, rape, and kidnapping. Although strikes can be dismissed, anyone charged with a crime should seek experienced legal help as soon as possible. A defense attorney can evaluate the facts of the case and help navigate the often-confusing legal process.
What Is California’s Three Strikes Law?
The Three Strikes law in California, enacted in 1994, was established to increase punishments for felony convictions after a person has previously been convicted of one or more serious or violent felonies. It aims to serve as a deterrent for those who have or might consider committing severe crimes.
Initially, the law required a defendant convicted of any new felony to serve double the prison term for that crime if they had one prior strike and 25 years to life imprisonment in the event of two qualifying strikes on their criminal record.
The law saw significant updates in 2012 when the public voted to change the requirement for a third strike from “any new felony” to a serious or violent felony. The amendments also gave those already serving time under the previous legislation an opportunity to petition for a term reduction if they were eligible for second-strike sentencing under the revised law.
What Are the Specifics of the Law?
California’s Three Strikes law is a strict policy for repeat offenders that can be incredibly severe in its punishments. It allows defendants to potentially face much longer sentences if they have previous felony convictions.
Convicted offenders considered “second strikers” are subjected to twice the sentence prescribed for the new crime they have been charged with. A second striker is an individual with one prior strike on their record who has now been charged with any felony.
“Third strikers” are those with two or more prior serious or violent felony convictions on their records and have been charged with a new serious or violent felony. They face an even harsher sentencing scheme upon a conviction: 25 years to life imprisonment.
In two-strike cases where the new offense is not serious or violent, the punishment will be double what it ordinarily would have been.
Generally, when someone is convicted of a felony, they can seek early release after earning custody credits and serving at least 50% of their sentence. Second strikers are not eligible for consideration for early release until they have served at least 80% of their sentence. Third strikers cannot apply for parole until they have served a determined minimum amount of their sentence.
What Crimes Fall Under the Three Strikes Law?
Under the Three Strikes law, individuals having prior serious or violent felony convictions may be subject to harsher sentencing.
Crimes eligible as strikes include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Rape, and
- Child molestation.
Furthermore, even with non-serious or non-violent felonies, stricter punishments may be imposed if the defendant has at least one prior conviction for a serious or violent felony.
Can a Strike Be Removed from a Person’s Record?
Having a prior strike removed from a criminal record is possible. At their discretion and after considering all relevant facts, a judge may choose to dismiss a strike if they determine that the offense falls outside of the Three Strikes law.
Generally, judges may remove a strike if the:
- Prior crime is older,
- Current violation is non-serious, and
- Defendant does not have a violent history.
A strike may also be considered for dismissal if the defendant’s criminal defense lawyer files a Romero motion. The request tells the court that the removal would be in the best interest of justice.
What to Do If Charged with a Crime
The potential consequences of a conviction are harsh, especially if the defendant has prior serious or violent felonies on their record. Regardless of the severity of the new charge, it’s crucial to have a defense lawyer provide legal counsel. They can help challenge the accusation and pursue a favorable outcome, such as an acquittal. The attorney can also argue against prior convictions being counted as strikes.
At the Law Offices of Evan E. Zelig, P.C., we work diligently for our clients in Santa Rosa. Schedule a consultation by calling (707) 418-5352 or submitting an online contact form today.