California Three Strikes Law
The Three Strikes Law was enacted by voters and the legislative branch in the 1990s. It has since been amended to include additional crimes to the list of "strike" offenses. This law allows for harsher prison sentences for those who commit a third offense that falls into the category of a strikeable offense. While previously the third offense only had to be a felony offense, a third offense must now be a third violent felony offense to constitute a strike.
When facing charges for a crime that is considered a three strikes offense, you need a criminal defense attorney immediately to assist you with fighting the charges, as your freedom is at stake. While initially intended to curb recidivism, it is not clear that it has helped in that regard, but has greatly increased the inmate population throughout California. Obtaining qualified legal help to assist in your defense if charged with a three strikes crime is vital to protect your rights.
Explaining the Purpose of the Three Strikes Law
In the 1990s, legislatures around the United States began to address of what is known as "career criminals." These were people who were habitual offenders and who repeatedly committed the same crimes – especially those who were repeatedly committing violent offenses. To balance out these crimes, legislation began to pass what is known as "Three Strikes Laws," which would act as baseball. Each offender had three chances. Should they strike out a third time, they're out for good.
This was enacted in the state of California in 1993 under Proposition 184 and was one of the first states to enact such a law. Under California law, the Three Strikes Law will add on significant penalties to the base consequences of criminal offenses. Should a defendant have previous convictions for "strike" felonies and is convicted of a third (now violent crime), they will face a sentencing of 25-years-to-life, regardless of the penalties that would normally be inflicted for a crime of this nature.
Prior Flaws of the Three Strikes Law
The main flaw is that the third strike before Proposition 36 passed could have a massively disproportionate consequence. For example, say a defendant has previously been criminally charged with arson and a felony theft and is now facing a criminal charge for shoplifting. Even though the penalties for this might be mild in comparison, the defendant could find themselves facing a conviction of life in prison, which is grossly disproportionate. Many have argued that this can be seen as a violation of the constitutional right against cruel and unusual punishment.
Other have argued that this law causes even more strain on an already strained California prison system – throwing even more people behind bars who do not deserve to be there for life. This can cause taxpayers throughout the state to bear the weight of taking care of aging prisoners who may not have necessarily committed a violent crime and who could be rehabilitated to be useful and productive members of society.
Prop 36 Reform to California Three Strikes Law
Proposition 36 on California voting ballots for the 2012 election was a proposal to amend the hotly-contested three strikes law. While the theory behind the law was rational, too-broad a definition of a "third strike" resulted in non-violent offenders being sent to prison for the same length of time as those who had committed violent offenses such as murder. Prop 36 passed, as expected, and therefore the law was amended to include the specification that in order for this rule to apply, the third strike must have been a violent felony offense such as murder rather than a non-violent felony offense such as grand theft. If you have questions about your status as a felony offender, contact us.
Penalties for a Three Strikes Offense
For anyone accused of a three strikes offense with a prior strike conviction, the sentencing for the current charge, if a felony, will double. For those who are convicted of a felony and have two or more prior strike convictions, the minimum sentence becomes 25 years to life in state prison. Martinian & Associates is very familiar with the laws pertaining to three strikes crimes and can work with prosecutors in attempting to have your charges reduced or dismissed. As a three strikes offense can drastically increase a normal sentence, working diligently to avoid maximum penalties is important. We can work towards changing prior felony convictions to a misdemeanor or a current charge from being a strike offense to a normal charge as an important step in your defense.