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California’s Three Strikes Law: Then and Now


For years, California's "Three Strikes and You're Out" law allowed for one of the harshest sentencing systems in the country. Though other states enforce some form of three-strike laws, which are meant to decrease violent and serious criminal acts by repeat offenders, California's three-strike law allowed for the extreme sentencing of defendants convicted of even nonviolent offenses. It wasn't until California voters passed Proposition 36, the Three Strikes Reform Act of 2012, that these unfair sentencing requirements were modified.

To better understand the important changes implemented under the Three Strikes Reform Act, it is necessary to understand how the previous Three Strikes and You're Outlaw was implemented. First passed in 1994 and reformed in 2000 and again in 2006, California's previous three strikes law listed a number of "violent" and "serious" felony offenses that would qualify as strikes on a defendant's criminal record. If a defendant was convicted of three such offenses, he or she could face 25 years to life in prison upon the third conviction. The reasoning behind this law was to reduce violent crimes committed by repeat offenders, but it also resulted in unreasonably excessive sentences for third strikers.

The reason the previous three strikes law allowed for unreasonable sentencing was this: defendants with two strikes on their records faced 25 years to life in prison for any third felony conviction, even if it was not classified as a violent offense. The result? Overcrowded prisons and no hope for rehabilitation for third strikers currently serving time.

Proposition 36 Modifies Unjust Three-Strike Sentencing

Proposition 36 was passed by California voters on November 26, 2012. This act won the popular vote in every county in the state. Proposition 36 modified the existing three strikes law, making it so defendants would only receive 25 years to life in prison if all three strikes were for serious or violent felonies (in most cases; there are some exceptions). Proposition 36 does not only apply to future defendants but may apply in cases that have already been tried and sentenced. Qualifying third strikers may be able to petition to have their sentences reduced. By 2011, there were approximately 32,000 second-strikers and 9,000 third-strikers in California prisons. As many as 3,000 third strikers may be able to seek reduced sentences.

Defendants will still face enhanced penalties for a third strike, even if this is not classified as a serious or violent felony. Under Proposition 36, a defendant with two or more strikes may face twice the sentence for the offense. This is the same enhanced penalty enforced for second strikers.

Even with the changes Proposition 36 brought to the three-strikes law, defendants need to be extremely careful when it comes to allegations or criminal charges for serious or violent felony offenses - especially if they already have a strike on their records. Crimes like residential burglary, robbery, assault with a firearm, rape, murder, attempted murder, lewd or lascivious act with a child under the age of 14, kidnapping, or any felony in which a defendant used a deadly weapon may invoke enhanced sentencing under the three-strikes law.

Experienced Criminal Defense in Irvine, CA

It takes a highly competent and aggressive attorney to successfully represent a striker in the face of any criminal allegations or formal charges. At the Law Offices of Jacqueline Goodman, we know what it takes to succeed and fight tirelessly for our clients to protect their freedom. With an Orange County criminal defense lawyer from our firm to represent your interests, you can feel confident in knowing that your constitutional rights will be protected to the fullest extent as we seek the best possible result in your case.

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If You're Facing Criminal Charges In Orange County, Los Angeles or Throughout California Call (714) 266-3945; For After-Hours, You Will Be Redirected To Her Cellphone
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