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California Three Strikes Law

California's Three Strikes Law & Defense

In 1994, California enacted a law that created harsher penalties for repeat offenders of very serious and violent crimes. The law mandated a doubling of prison time on a new felony conviction for defendants who have previously been convicted of one prior serious or violent felony and a minimum of twenty-five years to life for defendants convicted of at least two prior convictions of serious or violent felonies. The law enacted is commonly known as California's Three Strikes Law (a reference to the sport of baseball where a player is out after three strike).

Under Three Strikes Law, a strike offense is any serious or violent felony that is listed in California Penal Code section 1192.7 or 667.5. The crimes listed in those penal code sections include murder, torture, child molestation, manslaughter, arson, carjacking, kidnapping, residential burglary, mayhem, pimping by force, pandering by force, lewd acts on minors, sexual penetration with object by force, robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, criminal threats, sodomy by force, sexual assault, hostage taking, human trafficking, attempted murder, and more.

How Three Strikes Sentencing Calculates:

First offense of a strike crime:

No extra punishment other than the punishment generally associated with a particular crime. For example, if a defendant is convicted of the crime of felony criminal threats, a strike offense, the defendant will face up to three years in prison, which is the maximum prison sentence under that particular law. The defendant will also have a strike on his or her record after the conviction.

Conviction of a felony while having one strike prior:

If the defendant has one strike in his or her criminal record and the defendant is thereafter convicted of a subsequent felony, either a non-strike felony or a strike felony, the defendant will have the prison time associated with the subsequent offense doubled as a result of having a strike prior. For example, if a defendant has a prior strike conviction and is thereafter convicted of a new felony criminal threats charge, the defendant may face up to six years in prison (three years for the crime of felony criminal threats times two for a total of six years in prison). Remember it does not matter if the subsequent conviction of a felony is for a strike offense or non-strike offense.

Conviction of a third strike in California:

If the defendant has been previously convicted of at least two strike offense and is thereafter convicted of a third strike offense he or she will face twenty-five years to life in prison. 

Until 2014, if a defendant had suffered two prior strike convictions, and thereafter was convicted of any felony, whether the felony was a strike offense or non-strike offense, he or she would face twenty-five years to life. However, the voters of California, recognizing the harshness of California's Three Strikes law, voted in favor of Proposition 36, which required that any subsequent conviction of a felony, after suffering two prior strike convictions, must be a serious or violent felony (a strike offense) before the defendant faces twenty-five years to life.

In some cases, upon a motion by a criminal defense attorney, a judge may strike the strike, which means that the judge, in the interest of justice, will not sentence the defendant according to California's Three Strike sentencing. The reasons that a judge might strike a strike include the length of time between criminal convictions and the underlining facts of any particular case.

If you have been charged with a crime in California, including any strike offense, contact criminal defense attorney Christopher Dorado. Attorney Dorado dedicates one hundred percent of his law practice to defending those accused of crimes in California. There is no charge for initial consultations and our criminal defense attorneys are available for emergency consultations twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week. Call today.


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