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Three Strikes You're Out... Or In Prison for Life

In 1994, California enacted an enhanced-sentencing law for repeat violent felony offenders known as the “Three Strikes” law. As its namesake would suggest, this law implemented a “strike” system in which violent felony offenders would receive a mark on their criminal record and harsher sentences for subsequent violent felonies, culminating in a mandatory 25 years to life sentence upon a third strike. But what exactly counts as a “strike?”

“Strike” Offenses in California

A person can receive a strike on their record for a number of different felony convictions. Nearly all eligible strike offenses involve either inflicting serious injury to another person, are sexual in nature, include the threat or use of a weapon, or involve gangs.

The following offenses can all be considered a strike:

  • Murder/manslaughter
  • Rape
  • Unlawful possession of a firearm
  • Arson
  • Kidnapping
  • Armed robbery
  • Carjacking
  • Certain drug crimes

If a person is convicted of a second strike, they must be sentenced to double the base term of the current felony and must serve at least 80 percent of their sentence before being eligible for early release for good behavior. There is no time limitation on prior strikes.

While a person cannot be subjected to being sentenced for multiple strikes in the same case, they can still have multiple strikes go on their record for the same case. For example, say a person were to threaten a person with a knife and then proceed to commit a carjacking, they could be tried and convicted of two separate strike offenses – exposing them to a third strike for a subsequent offense.

How Did Prop 36 Change “Three Strikes” Sentencing?

While a person could previously receive a life sentence for any third felony conviction, this changed in 2012 with the passing of Proposition 36. This law made it so third-strike sentencing may only be imposed if a person’s third strike is also a serious or violent felony offense, rather than just any felony. Before this change, it was entirely possible for a person convicted of third-strike shoplifting to face a harsher sentence than a person convicted of murder.

Along with these changes, Proposition 36 allowed more than 3,000 inmates who were at the time serving third-strike life sentences to have their sentences reduced. Despite this, no third-strike inmates have been released on parole, as the first of which will not be eligible until sometime in 2019.

Facing Charges? Hire a Riverside Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you have been arrested on criminal charges and are facing a “strike” on your criminal record, or you already have a prior strike on your record, it is vital you contact a Riverside criminal defense attorney from Blumenthal & Moore as soon as possible to protect your future and freedom. In our 55+ years of combined legal experience, we have learned through numerous cases and trials how to make every possible effort to protect the rights of our clients.

Find out more about what our team of Super Lawyers® can do for you during a free consultation.

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