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What is the three strikes law?

California's Three Strikes policy was adopted in the mid-1990s and has caused plenty of controversy since that time for being unreasonably harsh. The original version of the law doubled the normal sentence for a felony if it was the defendant’s second felony. The law also imposed a 25-years to life sentence if the person received a third conviction, or “strike,” no matter what that conviction was for.

According to Stanford Law School’s Three Strikes Project, before voters approved the law in 1994, it was publicized as a way to “keep murders, rapists, and child molesters behind bars, where they belong.” However, the policy resulted in countless California residents -- many of whom were minorities or physically or mentally disabled -- being locked up for life for non-violent crimes.

Because of the criticism the law received and the over-crowding of prisons in the state, it was reformed by the Three Strikes Reform Act of 2012. The law no longer imposes the 25-years to life sentence unless the third strike is a violent felony. However, individuals who receive a second felony still face the double sentence that was originally imposed by the law.

For that reason, when a person is charged with a second felony and the first counted as a strike prior, it’s important to explore the possibility of getting the strike prior dismissed to avoid the double sentence. California judges now have more authority to dismiss strike priors when it is determined that the convictions fall “outside of the spirit” of the law’s intentions.

For more information, please visit our Fresno Three Strikes Lawyers page.

Examples of factors that the judge can consider when determining if a strike prior should be dismissed include: the nature of the past and current felony, how old the first felony is, and the defendant’s employment and criminal history since the first conviction.

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