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California Three Strikes Law

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What Is the California Three Strikes Law?

Negotiating the intricacies of the legal system can be particularly daunting, especially when confronting charges under California’s three-strikes law. This controversial sentencing scheme slaps individuals convicted of a severe or violent felony offense with a state prison sentence of 25 years to life. However, it doesn’t necessarily require three felonies to trigger that harsh sentence. It’s crucial to understand the nuances of this contentious sentencing scheme if you’re dealing with criminal matters in California.

This article dives into the origins, goals, and effects of California’s “Three-Strike” rule for people convicted of violent or serious felonies. It sets the record straight on the misconception that three felonies are needed for an enhanced sentence while highlighting the critical aspects of the three-strikes Law.

Contact the Law Offices of Christopher Chaney for professional legal assistance if you or someone you know is facing criminal charges in California.

How Does California’s Three-Strike Sentencing Work?

The Three Strikes law has a profound impact on the prison sentences of individuals who have previous convictions for violent or serious felonies. It restricts their ability to receive any punishment other than imprisonment. If you have two or more previous convictions for serious or violent felonies and then get convicted of a third felony, you’re looking at a sentence of 25 years to life. It is important to note that the third strike applies to any felony offense, no matter its classification as serious or violent.

Additionally, if someone has two prior strikes for serious or violent felonies, but their current felony charge does not fit the “strike” offense category, their third strike sentence will be twice as long as the standard sentence. Let’s take the example of someone who has previously been convicted of residential burglary and robbery, both of which are strike offenses, but is now facing charges for drug possession or non-residential burglary. In this situation, the third strike sentence will be twice the punishment for that felony.

Exceptions exist to the three-strikes law. If an individual is found guilty of a nonviolent felony and has two prior convictions for nonviolent felonies, they might be exempt from the 25-year-to-life sentence. Also, there are instances where this law does not bind juvenile offenders.

Third Strikers

A defendant previously convicted of two or more severe offenses (referred to as a third striker) is subject to a minimum sentence of 25 years to life imprisonment. During prison, they do not earn any time off for good behavior or work. Only after serving the prescribed minimum period (25 years for a 25-to-life sentence) are they eligible, although not guaranteed, for parole.

Second Strikers

A defendant found guilty of a new felony and already has one prior “strike” (commonly referred to as a second striker) may be sentenced to prison. In other words, they cannot be sent to a rehabilitation facility or placed on probation. The length of their prison sentence will be twice the duration that would have been given for the new serious or violent offense under normal circumstances.

Custody Credits and Consecutive Sentences

In California, prison inmates typically earn “custody credits” for good behavior, allowing them to be released after serving only 50% of their sentence. However, the three strikes law imposes restrictions on this privilege.

Second or third strikers must complete 80% of their sentence before becoming eligible for release, while defendants convicted of a violent felony must serve 85%. Additionally, the law mandates that strike sentences be served consecutively.

To illustrate, consider someone with two strikes on their record convicted of a third felony carrying a 10-year sentence. Under normal circumstances, they would serve only half of that sentence (5 years) with good behavior credits. However, due to the three-strikes law, they must serve at least 80% of the sentence, meaning they must serve at least eight years before becoming eligible for parole.

Furthermore, if they have multiple counts of third-strike offenses, these sentences must be served consecutively, resulting in even more time behind bars.

Crimes That Count as Strikes Under California’s Three-Strikes Law?

When determining which crimes fall under California’s three-strikes law, violent felonies are considered strikes. Examples of violent felonies include:

  • Murder
  • Voluntary manslaughter
  • Rape
  • Mayhem
  • Any robbery
  • Arson
  • Oral copulation by force
  • Sodomy by force
  • Kidnapping
  • Carjacking
  • Extortion
  • Lewd or lascivious acts on a child under 14 years of age

It is important to note that violent felonies are considered the more severe category among the two.

Can Prior Strikes Be Removed From My Record?

Although you can’t completely erase a previous strike from your criminal record, you can ask the judge to disregard it when considering your current felony case. It’s called “striking a prior strike” and involves your attorney filing a Romero motion to request the strike’s removal.

The court will consider the nature of the previous crime, your criminal history, and the time since the felony conviction. If successful, the judge will exclude the prior felony strike from the sentencing phase. It’s important to note that the strike will still be on your record and might affect future felony convictions. However, it can still help reduce your prison time!

Are Three-Strikes Defendants Eligible for Parole?

According to California law, if someone has a three-strikes conviction, they might be eligible for parole. Proposition 57, passed in 2016, allows the consideration of parole for nonviolent felony convictions. To be eligible, defendants must complete their “primary sentence” without including any sentence enhancements related to three strikes.

So, individuals with three strikes for nonviolent offenses can apply for parole in California after serving the maximum sentence for their third strike. Although Proposition 57 introduced provisions, it didn’t explicitly define what counts as a “nonviolent” offense. However, any offense that isn’t classified as a “serious offense” in Penal Code Section 667.5(c) is considered “nonviolent” under Proposition 57.

The complexity of California’s three-strikes law highlights the need for skilled legal representation when facing charges. Understanding its intricate provisions, like sentence enhancements, custody credits, and parole eligibility, can be challenging for non-legal professionals. That’s where a knowledgeable Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer from the Law Offices of Christopher Chaney comes in. We can clarify these complexities, explain how they apply to your unique situation, and help develop an effective defense strategy.

Dealing with charges under the three-strikes law can be overwhelming, especially with the life-changing consequences of a third strike. However, an experienced attorney can help you navigate potential defenses, like arguing that your felony is not serious or filing a Romero motion to disregard a previous strike. Our team can also help you understand the criminal justice reforms in California and how they might affect your case.

Remember, it’s crucial to understand your legal rights and the potential impact of a third-strike conviction when dealing with the criminal justice system. So, prioritize getting professional legal counsel if you are facing charges under California’s three-strikes law.

Securing Your Future: Don’t Face the Three Strikes Law Alone!

California’s three-strikes law poses significant legal challenges due to its complex provisions, including sentence enhancements, custody credits, and specific parole eligibility conditions. When facing charges under this law, it’s crucial to have skilled legal representation.

At the Law Offices of Christopher Chaney, we possess a comprehensive understanding of the intricacies of this legislation. Our extensive experience serves to safeguard your rights while expertly navigating potential defenses. Additionally, our professional guidance extends to matters such as assault and battery in California, as well as various other criminal law topics.

Don’t face the daunting criminal charges alone. Reach out for a consultation and learn how we can work with you to secure a promising future.

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Regardless of your circumstance, you are not alone in your fight. We are ready to stand by your side and fight for your rights, freedom, and reputation. Contact us today to schedule a free remote or in-person consultation, and let us assist you in finding a solution to your problem.