California’s Three Strikes Law

California’s Three Strikes Law

The California Three Strikes law, originally passed in 1994, was initially intended to reduce the prison population by disincentivizing criminal activity. The law, in its original form, stipulates that an individual that is convicted of a serious felony is to be given a “strike” on their permanent record and upon receiving a second felony conviction, to be given twice the prison term of the given offense and a second strike. In the event that an individual is convicted a third time, sentencing guidelines automatically provide the person with a 25-year-to-life sentence, regardless of the circumstances of the third conviction and third strike. If you are in the San Diego area facing a potential life sentence, you need a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney to maintain your freedom.

California's Three Strikes Law

Classification of Strike Prior

A point of concern for most new defendants is the fact that they may be subject to the three strikes law for a minor offense if one or more of the previous transgressions was a serious felony. This increases the likelihood of recidivism because recovering ex-convicts who struggle to find gainful employment may find themselves spending a quarter-century or longer behind bars for trying to meet basic needs through unsavory methods. It is absolutely critical to retain competent and effective legal counsel when confronted with the possibility of facing one or multiple strike priors. Strike priors, otherwise known as serious felony offenses, are defined within California Penal Code sections 667.5 (c) and 1192.7 (c) and include but are not limited to:

  • Residential burglary
  • Robbery
  • Kidnapping
  • Murder
  • Rape and child molestation
  • Any offense involving a weapon of any kind (injuries irrelevant)
  • Any crime resulting in substantial bodily harm

Another frightening aspect of the strike system is that, upon receiving a second strike, it is mandatory for the defendant to serve a prison sentence without the possibility of probation or other programs. Additionally, the defendant must serve 80% of the sentence that the second strike generates. This means that individuals involved in minor and non-violent offenses may be given lengthy prison sentences where they otherwise wouldn’t.


Defense for Three Stikes Violation

Despite how intimidating the prosecutorial system of the state may seem, defendants do have recourse. In 1996, in the landmark case The People of the State of California v. Romero, after a California Supreme Court appeal, it was determined that in certain circumstances a judge has the authority to dismiss a strike prior if the new offense is determined to be innocuous. A skilled criminal defense lawyer can file a Romero motion on your behalf and have a judge dismiss one of your previous strikes to prevent you from serving an elongated sentence.


Contact an Attorney

If you are in danger of being convicted of one or more strike felony offenses in the San Diego area, it is imperative that you contact a quality criminal defense attorney with the necessary skills to handle such a precarious and complex matter. Having one strike felony is seriously damaging to your social, mental, and financial health; however, having two or more may leave you incarcerated for the majority of your life. For a free consultation call the Coastal Legal Center at 619-231-0724