What Is California’s Three Strikes Law?
In 1994, California enacted the Three Strikes law. In essence, this law punished repeat offenders by increasing the sentencing terms for each subsequent crime after the first. The law grants that if you are convicted of a felony after you already have one prior conviction, you will be sentenced to state prison for twice the normal sentence for the crime committed. If you are convicted of a third strike felony, you will be sentenced to a minimum of 25 years to life in state prison. Proposition 36, which was approved in 2012, amended the law so that the third strike now has to be a serious or violent felony in order to qualify for the 25 years-to-life sentence. Some crimes that are considered strikes include rape, murder, arson, and robbery.
Challenges to the Three Strikes Law
Recently, the Three Strikes law has come under scrutiny, with many legislators and critics voicing their thoughts on why the law should be repealed or at least softened. This includes California’s Committee on Revision of the Penal Code, which has called for the repeal of the Three Strikes law, contending that it has been used disproportionately against people of color and has not prevented crime. The California Repeal Three Strikes Law Initiative is a ballot that would repeal the state’s criminal sentencing law for violent or serious repeat offenders. Although the initiative will not be on the ballot in November 2022, it proposed the following reforms:
- Eliminate third-strike sentencing enhancement that imposes life imprisonment with possibility of parole for serious felony offenders with two or more prior serious or violent felony convictions
- Eliminate second-strike sentencing enhancement that doubles sentence term for felony offenders with one prior serious or violent felony conviction
- Require resentencing of inmates who would have received lesser sentences under this measure
- Maintain other sentencing enhancements for repeat offenders
- Apply savings from sentencing changes to public school youth-mentoring programs, tuition assistance at California Community Colleges and California State University, and restorative justice and transitional housing program
Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón has also been fighting to soften the law. The progressive district attorney argued that mandating that prosecutors file such cases under the Three Strikes law effectively takes the charging decision out of the prosecutor’s hands, the core function of a prosecutor’s office. However, Gascón is facing a recall push as critics blame his progressive directives for the rise in crime and emboldening criminals who no longer fear harsh consequences from the district attorney’s office.
Supporters of the Three Strikes law maintain that the law is much less prone to abuse or injustice after Proposition 36 was approved and that, although occasionally heavy-handed, the law is necessary in order to prevent crime. Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami, for example, criticized Gascón’s “blanket policy” in December 2020 of removing strike priors on existing cases and forbidding the filing of strike priors, including those for murderers, serial rapists, child molesters, and sex traffickers.
The future of the Three Strikes Law is unclear, but if the law is repealed, it would change the way that violent repeat offenders are dealt with in the criminal justice system. While this may give some a chance at rehabilitation, it may give others just more opportunities to commit dangerous crimes.
Contact Wallin & Klarich Today
If you are accused of a crime that is classified as a strike under the Three Strikes law, you may be facing a heavy jail sentence. Contact Wallin & Klarich as soon as possible to see how we can help. With 40+ years of experience, Wallin & Klarich is your best choice amongst Southern California criminal defense firms. Our attorneys have helped thousands of clients defend against a wide range of crimes, and we have the skills and resources to secure the best possible outcome for you.
With offices in Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Victorville, Torrance, West Covina, Los Angeles, and San Diego, you are sure to find an available and convenient attorney near you.
Discover how our team can assist you. Contact us today, toll-free at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free consultation with a skilled defense attorney.