California Three Strikes Law

Serious and violent felonies carry a heavy weight of punishment under California law. The California Three Strikes Law, one of the most severe three strikes laws in the country, has been amended to reduce the number of nonviolent offenders serving excessive prison sentences.

Amendment of The Three Strike Sentencing Law

According to California Penal Code 1192.7, “serious felonies include:

  • Murder or voluntary manslaughter
  • Mayhem
  • Rape
  • Arson
  • First-degree burglary
  • Robbery or bank robbery
  • Kidnapping
  • Grand theft involving a firearm
  • Carjacking
  • Holding of a hostage by a person confined in a state prison
  • Attempt to commit a felony punishable by death or imprisonment for life
  • Sodomy by force, violence, duress, menace, threat of great bodily injury, or fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury
  • Oral copulation by force, violence, duress, menace, threat of bodily injury, or fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury
  • Lewd or lascivious act on a child under 14 years of age
  • Any felony punishable by death or imprisonment for life
  • Any felony in which the defendant personally inflicts great bodily injury on someone, other than an accomplice
  • Any felony in which the defendant personally uses a firearm
  • Attempted murder
  • Assault with intent to commit rape or robbery
  • Assault with a deadly weapon or instrument on a peace officer
  • Assault by a life prisoner on a non-inmate
  • Assault with a deadly weapon by an inmate
  • Exploding a destructive device or any explosive with intent to injure
  • Exploding a destructive device or any explosive causing bodily injury, great bodily injury, or mayhem
  • Exploding a destructive device or any explosive with intent to murder
  • Any felony in which the defendant personally used a dangerous or deadly weapon
  • Selling, furnishing, administering, giving, or offering to sell, furnish, administer, or give to a minor any heroin, cocaine, PCP, or methamphetamine-related drug
  • Sexual penetration where the act is accomplished against the victim’s will by force, violence, duress, menace, or dear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury (as detailed in Section 289a)
  • Throwing acid or flammable substances (in violation of Section 244)
  • Assault with a deadly weapon, firearm, machine gun, assault weapon, or semiautomatic firearm or assault on a peace officer or firefighter (in violation of Section 245)
  • Assault with a deadly weapon against a public transit employee, custodial officer, or school employee (in violation of Sections 245.2, 245.3, 245.5)
  • Discharge of a firearm at an inhabited dwelling, vehicle, or aircraft (in violation of Section 246)
  • Commission of rape or sexual penetration in concert with another person (in violation of Section 246)
  • Continuous sexual abuse of a child (in violation of Section 288.5)
  • Shooting from a vehicle (in violation of subdivision (c) or (d) of Section 12034)
  • Intimidation of victims or witnesses (in violation of Section 136.1)
  • Criminal threats (in violation of Section 422)
  • Any conspiracy or attempt to commit one of the above crimes other than assault

Violent felonies constitute a shorter list, but with several overlapping offenses. Violent felonies include murder, mayhem, rape, robbery, arson, attempted murder, kidnapping, carjacking, extortion, threats to victims or witnesses, first-degree burglary, and more.

Legal Defenses for Serious and Violent Felonies

Each case is different, depending on the evidence, initial offense, and the defendant’s history with the Three Strikes Law. Serious and violent felonies are some of the most serious offenses in terms of sentencing especially considering the severity of California’s Three Strikes Law but there are still several options for legal defenses.

  1. Introduction of reasonable doubt: Police are human, and to err is human. Every year, suspects are apprehended and questioned who had no role in the felony in question; if this happens to you, we can help. The more serious the crime, the heavier the burden of proof that lies on the prosecution mistakes are made every day, and Blair Defense can ensure that you are treated fairly and not held responsible for a mistaken identity.
  2. Police misconduct: Officers of the law are expected and required to act in appropriate, lawful ways during the investigation of a felony. Examples of police misconduct include use of excessive force, illegal search and seizure, making false or misleading statements in a police report, giving false testimony, failure to read Miranda warnings before an interrogation, making false statements to get a search or arrest warrant, racial profiling, coercing an admission from an innocent person, refusal to allow the individual to speak with his or her attorney, and planting evidence. If police misconduct has occurred, the court has a duty to hold law enforcement responsible for the misconduct.
  3. Temporary insanity: A severely compromised mental state can adversely affect a defendant’s ability to make rational decisions and act appropriately. Emotional turmoil or emotional trauma can prove a suspect was not in control of his or her actions and therefore cannot be held accountable.

Regardless of the details of your individual case, Blair Defense has the experience you need to tell your side of the story and clear your name.

Sentencing for Serious and Violent Felonies

California Three Strikes Law The Three Strikes sentencing law was first enacted in California in 1994. It states that if a defendant is convicted of a felony and was previously convicted of a serious felony, he or she is to be sentenced to state prison for twice the term otherwise provided for the crime. If a defendant has two or more prior strikes and is convicted of a felony, he or she will be required to serve 25 years to life in prison. In 2012, California voters approved Proposition 36, which amended the Three Strikes Law in these ways:

  1. The new felony must be a serious or violent felony with two or more prior strikes to qualify as a third strike offender.
  2. Defendants currently serving a third strike sentence may petition the court for reduction of their term to a second strike sentence if they would have been eligible for second strike sentencing under the new law.

The California Three Strikes Law has affected a large number of offenders. As of April 2009, “striker inmates” made up 25% of the overall prison population. On average, striker sentences are nine years longer than other inmates, causing $19.2 billion in additional costs for incarceration. Many people incarcerated under the Three Strikes Law committed multiple serious or violent offenses on the same day or committed Three Strikes offenses as a juvenile.

Great Bodily Injury

Inflicting a great bodily harm during the commission or attempted commission of a felony can result in additional prison time. California Penal Code Section 12022.7 defines “great bodily harm” as a significant or substantial physical injury. Depending on the severity of the injury and the status of the injured person, the additional prison time can vary. The following situations result in increased prison sentences:

  • The injury causes the victim to become comatose or suffer permanent paralysis (five additional years)
  • The victim is 70 years of age or older (five additional years)
  • The victim is less than five years old (four to six additional years)
  • The circumstances involve domestic violence (three to five additional years)

Contact an Experienced Attorney

Conviction for a serious or violent felony is a major, life-altering event. Contact the Law Office of Peter Blair online or at (619) 357-4977 for your free consultation, and find out how we can help with your serious or violent felony charge.