What is the California Three Strikes Law?

handcuffs resting on books holding gavel

What is the California Three Strikes Law?

“Three strikes, you’re out!” is common knowledge when thinking about baseball — after three strikes at the plate a batter is out, and three outs in part of an inning ends that team’s chance to score. In the state of California, repeat offenders also can be “out” — out of chances, if they face multiple convictions.

Definition of California’s Three Strikes Law

The California Three Strikes Law in its original form was enacted in 1994. A person convicted of a felony would be given a strike with each strike leading up to a harsher sentence. If a person received their third strike, they could be incarcerated for the rest of their life.

In 2012, California voters approved Proposition 36 which amended the law.

Why Was the Three Strikes Law Created?

The Three Strikes Law was created after the murders of Kimber Reynolds and Polly Klaas. Reynolds was killed after two men confronted her as she was leaving a restaurant. It was believed one of the men wanted her purse, but instead, she was shot in the head.

12-year-old Polly Klaas was taken during a slumber party by Richard Allen Davis. It was two months before law enforcement connected Davis to the crime and he eventually told authorities where to find Klaas’ body.

The connection both of these cases have to the law is both criminals had prior felony offenses before they committed these murders. Families of the victims originally advocated for tougher consequences for repeat serious offenders and in 1994 the Three Strikes Law was passed.

What Happens if I Have One or Two Strikes?

Getting one strike in California means that someone is convicted of a felony. If the offender was sentenced to a crime that allows them to be released from prison, or they are paroled early and released, and then commit another felony, that offender will now have two strikes. Having a second strike means the offender will spend double the punishment for their crime.

What Happens if I Have Three Strikes?

If an offender is convicted of their third strike, California law means they will automatically be incarcerated for 25 years to life in prison. After 25 years, the offender may be eligible, but not guaranteed, a parole hearing.

Proposition 36

In November 2012, California voters approved Proposition 36 which has amended the three-strike law to what it is today. The amendments stated that if a person was facing a third strike, the newest crime must a serious or violent crime. The original wording in the law did not have the specification meaning that if an offender committed a misdemeanor crime, but because of their previous record that crime was elevated to a felony, they could face a third strike.

Examples of serious or violent crimes include:

  • murder;
  • voluntary manslaughter;
  • rape;
  • robbery;
  • kidnapping;
  • DUI where there was a substantial injury;
  • carjacking; and,
  • selling drugs to a minor.

Another approval from voters through Proposition 36 was an offender currently serving their third strike for a non-violent felony may petition to have their sentence reduced. According to the Three Strikes Project at Stanford, because of this approved amendment, more than 1,000 prisoners were released from incarceration. The group also stated that since their releases, 2% of those prisoners released committed a new crime which is below state and national averages. Additionally, the group claims that California taxpayers saved between $10 and $13 million by not having the former prisoners in custody.

Facing a third strike can be intimidating. Before facing a third strike you’ll want to talk with an experienced California three strikes lawyer who understands the judicial system. The Fresno defense team of Schweitzer & Davidian have helped others avoid receiving another strike and kept them out of prison. Call our offices today to see how we will fight for you. (559) 206-2322

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