three strikes law

Learning More About the Three Strikes Law in California

If you live in California, you’re most likely aware of the Three Strikes Law and how it has impacted the state’s legal landscape. And, if you’re facing a charge, you might wonder how the law will affect your case and even your future. This isn’t really surprising since, from 1994 to 2012, California’s Three Strikes Law was considered to be one of the harshest in the country.


Inception of the Three Strikes Law

Washington was the first U.S. state to pass a Three Strikes Law in 1993, but California quickly followed suit in 1994. The law received overwhelming support from Californians, with 72 percent of voters in favor of the law and only 28 percent against it.


The law was initially called “Three Strikes and You’re Out”, in reference to the fact that a repeat offender who has been convicted of three serious or violent felonies will automatically receive a life imprisonment sentence.


Why California’s Version Is Unique

The Three Strikes Law is not unique to California. As mentioned above, Washington has its own version of the law, as well as 26 other states like Texas, Kansas, Missouri, and Connecticut. However, California’s version of the Three Strikes Law stands out because of several reasons.


For one thing, the Californian law has a longer list of crimes that are considered as “violent” or “serious”, and many of those on the list are actually minor offenses. Most states consider rape, murder, kidnapping, sexual abuse, aggravated assault, and aggravated robbery as violent crimes, which is completely understandable. However, aside from these offenses, California’s Three Strikes Law also considers arson, burglary, drug possession, simple robbery, and firearm violations as “serious” or “violent”. This means that anyone who commits any of the latter will receive a strike, regardless of the fact that they have committed a relatively minor offense in comparison.


The Californian version of the Three Strikes Law also doesn’t consider the severity of the third strike, as long as it was the third offense that the person has committed. For example, if a repeat offender was previously charged of two violent or serious crimes, he will still receive a life sentence if he commits a third one — even it was a minor offense.


Three Strikes Reform Act of 2012

Studies have shown that California’s Three Strikes Law has led to the dramatic increase of prison population and to the life imprisonment of people who committed petty crimes and non-violent offenses. This paved the way to the modification of the law in 2012, called “A Change in the Three Strikes Law Initiative” but more commonly known as Proposition 36. It gained a lot of support from Californians, with 69.3 percent voting in favor of it and just 30.7 voting against it.


With the proposition in place, a repeat offender will only be given a Third Strike and a life imprisonment sentence if his third offense is a “serious or violent felony”. Additionally, those who were given life imprisonment under the old law but did not actually commit serious or violent crime will have their cases reviewed. This is to see if they could be released or at least given a shorter sentence.


Think You’ve Got a Strike?

Despite this reform, being charged with a strike — whether it’s your first, second, or third strike — is no laughing matter. If you’re facing a legal case and believe that it will bring a strike, get in touch with a knowledgeable and reliable attorney like Joel Lueck. With years of experience as a Criminal Defense Attorney, he can assist with bargaining for a lesser offense, reducing the severity of a sentence, and preventing a strike from being awarded.