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In California, the three-strike law is a criminal sentencing law that imposes harsh penalties for repeat offenders who have been convicted of at least three serious or violent felonies. Under this law, offenders who are convicted of their third felony will receive a mandatory sentence of 25 years to life in prison, and it is designed to keep habitual offenders off the streets and deter others from committing similar offenses.
At Dod Law, APC, our experienced criminal defense attorneys understand the severe penalties associated with the three-strike law and can help you fight the charges against you. We will work to identify all available options with a dedication to protecting your rights and advocating for a fair and just outcome. In this article, we will discuss the three-strike law in California and how an experienced lawyer can help you fight the charges against you.
What Is the Three-Strike Law?
In 1994, California voters passed the three-strike law. Under this law, an offender who has been convicted of three serious or violent felonies is subject to a mandatory sentence of 25 years to life in prison. However, it is not limited to three strikes alone. If a defendant is convicted of any felony, their sentence is automatically doubled, regardless of whether it is their first or fourth offense.
Additionally, an offender may be subject to the law even if the third strike is not a serious felony. Some examples of this include serious drug offenses, sex crimes that involve registering as a sex offender, and crimes committed involving a firearm.
In 2012, Californians passed Proposition 36, overturning the three-strikes rule, and permitting those serving life sentences for non-serious, non-violent offenses to petition the court for a reduced sentence. With the court having to consider the risk posed to public safety, this was the first initiative since the Civil War to reduce sentences of inmates already serving time.
Can Individuals Get Credit for Time Served Under Three-Strikes?
In cases not involving the three-strikes law, inmates earn “custody credits,” which allow them to reduce their sentences by up to 50%. However, inmates sentenced under the three-strikes law are limited in how much credit they can earn. If the offender is serving time for their second or third strike, the law requires they serve out a minimum of 80% of their sentence before they are eligible for release. That means if an inmate receives a 10-year sentence, they must serve at least 8 years before they can be released.
In cases involving violent felonies, that is increased to 85%. Additionally, convictions involving multiple sentences must be carried out consecutively. Therefore, if the defendant is convicted of two serious or violent felonies, they will serve both sentences back-to-back.
Can I Request a Judge to Dismiss Prior Strikes?
In certain cases, a judge may have the discretion to dismiss prior strikes if the defendant can demonstrate that they are a productive member of society and have been rehabilitated. The judge may also consider their criminal history, the severity of their current offense, and the facts of the case when determining whether to reduce a sentence or dismiss prior strikes.
However, if the current offense is serious or violent, or the defendant has a significant criminal history, the judge may be even less likely to grant the request. It is very rare for judges to dismiss prior strikes involving drugs or firearms, or if the defendant has a prior strike for a sex offense.
What Charges Count as a Strike Under California’s Three-Strike Rule?
Not all felony charges are considered serious or violent under the three-strike law. California law classifies certain felonies as serious or violent depending on the crime and the circumstances of the case. Some of these felonies include:
Crimes Committed for the Benefit of a Street Gang
Regardless of the type of crime, if it was a felony that was committed for the benefit of a criminal street gang, it may be considered a serious or violent felony and subject to the three-strike law.
Due to the serious nature of these crimes, the penalties they carry are even more severe if they are considered serious or violent felonies. Examples of sexual offenses that may fall under the three-strike law include rape and certain types of child pornography.
Crimes Involving Weapons
If a weapon was used in the commission of a felony, that felony may be considered a serious or violent felony and subject to the three-strike law. Weapons can include firearms, knives, explosive devices, and certain types of chemical agents.
Crimes Involving Children
Due to the lasting harm that can be inflicted upon children, certain felonies that involve minors are considered serious or violent and may be subject to the three-strike law. Examples of these include kidnapping, human trafficking, and certain types of child abuse.
Threats and Mayhem
In California, the three-strike law also applies to felonies that involve threats or mayhem. Examples of these offenses include extortion, intimidation, and conspiracy to commit certain crimes.
Certain Property Crimes
Certain types of property crimes may also be considered serious or violent felonies under the three-strike law. These include burglary, carjacking, robbery, arson, and grand theft involving a firearm.
Contact Dod Law, APC for Help Fighting Felony Strikes
Facing a felony strike under California’s three-strike law can be a frightening and overwhelming experience, but it is important to remember that you have options. When facing a felony strike, an experienced lawyer can help you build a strong defense, negotiate with prosecutors, and understand the legal process.
At Dod Law, APC, we strive to provide comprehensive legal services that are tailored to your individual needs. We also provide personalized legal advice and resources to help you make the best decisions for your case. Whether you are facing a felony strike or any other criminal charge, we have over 18 years of experience to help you and your case. Contact us online or call us at (619) 814-5110 to schedule an appointment with an experienced criminal defense lawyer.