The Infamous California “3 Strikes Law”- Which Crimes Count?

The State of Washington was the first state in the nation to pass the ‘no-nonsense’ 3 strikes policy to address repeat, criminal offenders in 1993.  California enacted its 3 strikes law shortly after Washington in 1994.  These “habitual offender laws” are statutes adopted by individual state legislatures to impose harsher sentences on those who have committed three or more felonies.  In most states including California, this means a life sentence without the possibility of parole on the 3rd strike.

Since 1993, 28 states have passed that same policy (Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin), with Massachusetts being the latest state to adopt a 3 strikes law in 2012.

What California’s Law Says

California notably has the strictest 3 strikes law in the nation.  It imposes a life sentence for almost any crime no matter how minor, if the defendant had 2 prior convictions for crimes defined as serious or violent by the California Penal Code.

Under the California Penal Code, violent and serious felonies include:

  •         Murder, attempted murder, and manslaughter
  •         Rape and sexual offenses such as a lewd act on a minor
  •         Any felony punishable by death or life sentence.
  •         Any felony resulting in great bodily injury or in which a firearm was used
  •         Robbery
  •         Kidnapping
  •         Arson that causes great bodily injury
  •         Grand theft auto
  •         Violent assault with a weapon
  •         Drug offenses

Because over half of the inmates serving time in the overcrowded California prisons are there for non-violent crimes (ie. burglary or drug charges), the majority of California voters approved Proposition 36 on November 6, 2012.  Prop 36 substantially amended the law with two primary provisions:

  1. A 3rd striker could be sentenced to life imprisonment only if his or her new felony conviction was serious or violent.
  2. Inmates currently serving a 3rd strike life sentence could petition the court for a reduction of their term to a 2nd strike sentence (which is typically twice the term otherwise provided for the crime) if their 3rd strike conviction was not a serious or violent crime.

However, what Proposition 36 left unchanged was continuing to impose a life sentence for 3rd strike convictions that involved drug offenses and firearm possession.

San Diego 3 Strikes Lawyer

The Law Offices of David M. Boertje handles all misdemeanor and felony criminal cases including drug charges, violent crimes, and 3 strikes crimes.  We are dedicated to protecting your constitutional rights and freedom, and have successfully represented many defendants, including those with 3 strikes criminal charges.  We will seek a compromise whenever possible to reduce your charges to avoid a 3 strikes felony on your record.  If you have been arrested and charged with a crime, contact attorney David Boertje today for a free consultation.