California’s Three Strikes sentencing law is a stringent legal measure adopted to curb repeat offenses, particularly serious or violent crimes. This law dictates that individuals with prior qualifying convictions who commit another felony are subject to significantly harsher sentences, designed as both punitive and deterrent tools. Understanding how this works is essential for anyone facing criminal charges in California. 

How Exactly Does The Three Strikes Law Work?

California’s three strikes law is designed to significantly increase penalties for those convicted of multiple serious or violent felonies. For a conviction to count as a strike, the crime must qualify as serious or violent according to statutory definitions, and not all felonies meet the criteria to be considered a “strike” under California law.

For Second Strikers

If it’s your second strike offense, meaning that you have just been convicted of a serious or violent felony for the second time, the law mandates that your sentence be doubled from what it otherwise would be under California law. This means if an offense normally carries a 10-year prison sentence, a second striker would face 20 years.

For Third Strikers

If you are convicted in California of a third “strike” – that is, your third serious or violent felony – you face an automatic prison sentence ranging from 25 years to life. The law can end up applying even when the third felony would not, on its own, result in a life sentence.

The harsh reality of this law makes it absolutely essential to work with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible if you’re facing a serious or violent felony charge.

What Is Considered a Serious or Violent Felony Under the Three Strikes Law?

California Three Strikes law classifies certain felonies as either violent or serious, contributing to the higher sentencing stakes. The definitions of a “violent” felony are listed under Penal Code 667.5(c), and “serious” felonies fall under Penal Code 1192.7(c).

Violent Felonies 

These crimes typically involve harming or threatening harm to an individual physically. 

Examples of violent felonies include:

  • Murder or voluntary manslaughter
  • Rape
  • Oral copulation or sodomy by force
  • Arson
  • Kidnapping
  • Carjacking

This is not an exhaustive list but provides an overview of some of the most common crimes considered violent felonies. 

Serious Felonies 

These offenses often involve either significant physical injury or a high potential for harm. 

Examples of serious felonies as outlined in the Three Strikes law include:

  • Any felony where the defendant inflicts great bodily injury
  • First-degree burglary
  • Robbery
  • Grand theft involving a firearm
  • Sale of cocaine, heroin, PCP, or methamphetamine to a minor

Additionally, any felony where a firearm is used is considered a serious felony under the three strikes law in California.

Defending Against the Three Strikes Law

If you’re facing a conviction under California’s Three Strikes Law, presenting a Romero motion can be an essential step in your defense strategy. Named after the 1996 Supreme Court case People v. Romero, this legal move asks the judge to dismiss prior strike(s) if it is “in the interest of justice.” 

Attorneys representing defendants often argue that treating their client as a striker would not serve justice for one or more of the following reasons: 

Length of time since the prior strike occurred

Suppose significant time has passed without further criminal behavior. In that case, it suggests the defendant may have become less of a threat to society or has shown signs of rehabilitation and personal growth since their prior strike offense.

Client’s history

A comprehensive look at the life circumstances that led to past and current offenses could prevent an offense from being charged as a strike. This includes social background, mental health status, efforts at rehabilitation after prior convictions, or other mitigating factors surrounding earlier crimes.

Facts of the current charge

The particular details and context surrounding the most recent offense might show it is not proportionate or just to impose a severe strike sentence. 

Courts are unsurprisingly more receptive to Romero motions when previous strike crimes were non-violent and occurred a considerable amount of time ago. The judge will balance the protection of public safety with principles of fairness and proper punishment.

Contact a San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyer at Blair Defense Criminal Lawyers Today For Help

For more information, please contact the San Diego criminal defense attorneys at Blair Defense Criminal Lawyers for a free consultation, give us a call at (619) 357-4977, or visit our convenient location:

Blair Defense Criminal Lawyers – San Diego Criminal Defense Law Firm
255 Broadway, Ste 1740. San Diego, CA. 92101