What is California’s Three Strikes Law?

What is California’s Three Strikes Law?On March 7, 1994, California’s Three Strikes and You’re Out law went into effect. The purpose of the new law was to increase the legal penalties for defendants convicted of a felony that also have a prior felony conviction for one or more crimes.

The Three Strikes and You’re Out law received a dramatic makeover in 2014, when voters approved Proposition 36. The amended Three Strikes and You’re Out law includes two provisions. The first provision requires felonies to be violent crimes, while the second provision allows convicted felons serving a third strike sentence to ask the court for a reduction of the conviction to a second strike.

What is the Definition of a Violent Felony?

A defendant convicted of a felony in California receives a prison sentence to be served in state prison, as opposed to lesser crimes that send convicted defendants to county jail. The length of a felony sentence is longer than the sentence issued by a judge for a misdemeanor conviction.

A violent felony is any offense that involves a weapon, regardless if no one received any injuries. California also defines a violent felony as a criminal offense that produced great bodily harm. Attempts to commit a violent crime can fall within the definition of a violent felony as well.

California Penal Code defines the following crimes as violent felonies:

  • Rape
  • Robbery
  • Kidnapping
  • Murder
  • Child molestation
  • Residential burglary

What Happens If a Defendant Has One Strike?

A defendant who is convicted for a new felony that has one prior strike must go to state prison for twice the amount of time a defendant is sentenced for a first strike felony conviction. Defendants that are convicted of a second strike felony cannot be placed on probation or sent to a rehabilitation center. A second strike on a criminal record means the convicted felon must serve 80 percent of the state prison sentence.

What Happens If a Defendant Has Two Strikes?

Referred to as a third-striker, a defendant with two or more prior violent felony convictions faces a minimum prison sentence of 25 years, with the possibility of the judge sentencing the defendant to life in prison. The defendant does not have the opportunity to earn a reduced sentence because of good behavior. After serving the required sentence, a third-striker is eligible for, but not guaranteed parole.

Are Three Strike and You’re Out Sentences Mandatory for Every Case?

In a limited number of cases, the court might discover that a two or three strike defendant does not qualify for an additional strike because of the “spirit” of the law. The court or the prosecutor can file a motion to dismiss one of the previous strikes. The California Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court can review a decision issued to dismiss one of a defendant’s previous strikes.

Work with a California Criminal Defense Attorney

Judges typically dismiss a prior strike only when the new offense is considered minor under California law. The key to preventing a strike from blemishing a criminal record is to file a motion for dismissing the strike, as well as putting up a defense on the criminal charge that might lead to a strike. If you face the possibility of receiving a strike on your criminal record, you need to act with a sense of urgency by contacting the Chambers Law Firm.

You can reach our law firm by calling 714-760-4088.

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