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Understanding California’s “Three Strikes” law

On Behalf of | Aug 9, 2021 | Criminal Defense |

When California’s “Three Strikes” law took effect back in 1994, it was met with a decidedly mixed reaction. Some people felt that it was a much-needed step in keeping repeat violent offenders off the streets. Others, however, expressed concerned that it punished people too harshly for any third offense if they had a criminal record.

What the original law said was that:

  1. If a person who had been convicted of a serious felony in the past was convicted of another felony, they could be sentenced to serve double the usual sentence for that second offense.
  2. If this person with “two strikes” committed yet another felony, that “third strike” meant they could be sentenced to serve no less than 25 years to life in state prison

How did Proposition 36 change the law?

In 2012, California voters decided that the law as written and enacted was too harsh. They approved a proposition (Prop 36) that added two provisions to the law. 

First, the third strike can’t be just any felony offense. It has to be a serious or violent felony to mandate the 25-to-life sentence. Second, those who were currently serving that sentence based on the requirements in the original law could petition to have their sentence reduced if their third strike wasn’t serious enough to qualify under the amended law.

People who remember that initial Three Strikes law may not realize that it was amended. Others may not be old enough to remember it and not even realize that California has such a law. It can be confusing – particularly if you or a loved one is facing a third felony conviction. It’s essential to ensure that your rights are protected and that you can present a strong defense.