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What is the Three Strikes Law in California?

What is the Three Strikes Law in California?

A young man living in Los Angeles County unwisely becomes part of a gang. During his time with the gang, he takes part in a robbery of a neighborhood liquor store. He’s caught, tried, and found guilty. After serving a few years of prison time, he is let out and falls back into the same gang. This time he forcibly attempts to steal a car while the owner is driving — he is arrested, tried, and convicted of carjacking as an LA crime, resulting in more prison time. 

Now out after serving his prison sentence for the second conviction, the young man plans to change his ways and leave the gang life behind him. However, one night at a bar he gets into a fight with another man hitting on his girlfriend. The other man ends up with a broken arm, and cops arrest the young man and he’s charged under Penal Code 12022.7 for great bodily injury. 

This marks the third strike on the young man’s record, and California law considers all three charges serious or violent crimes. Now California’s Three Strikes Law comes into play and the young man may be facing 25 years, to life in prison if found guilty.

How California Three Strikes Law Works

Californians voted in the Three Strikes Law back in 1994. Also known as the "Three Strikes and You’re Out" law, California Penal Code 667 explains the terms of the legislation. 

The Three Strikes Law says any California citizen convicted of three serious or violent felonies would receive a minimum sentence of 25 years to life in state prison. Some examples of serious or violent felonies include: 

  • Murder or attempted murder
  • Rape
  • Robbery
  • Arson
  • Kidnapping
  • Extortion

"Third striker" defendants convicted of non-violent crimes on their third strike will not face the Third Strike Law sentence. However, they face double the normal prison term for their non-violent crime if convicted. 

There are also some convictions where a third striker receives the Third Strike Law sentence even if their third conviction is not a violent crime or felony. These include: 

  • Intent to cause great bodily injury
  • A firearm or deadly weapon discharged
  • Sex crimes
  • Drug offenses with a certain quantity of drugs involved

Anyone facing a Three Strikes Law conviction is ineligible for parole unless they can be eligible for parole under Proposition 57. Three strikers must complete the normal maximum sentence of their third strike conviction before applying for parole under Prop 57.

How Can a Defense Lawyer Beat a Three Strikes Law Conviction?  

There are a few ways in which a criminal defense lawyer can defend and possibly appeal a Three Strikes Law conviction. 

  • Have a Prior Strike Erased — A criminal defense attorney asks a judge to dismiss a prior strike through a Romero motion. The judge examines factors such as the defendant's criminal history and how long ago the defendant committed the strike before making their decision.  
  • Argue Prior Crimes Were Not "Strikes" — During the case, a prosecutor must prove the defendant actually had two previous strikes with various evidence. A criminal defense lawyer argues the past convictions did not merit "strikes" as they were not serious or violent felonies. 
  • Prove Innocence of the Third Crime — If a criminal defense lawyer proves their client is not guilty of the third crime they’re arrested for, the Three Strikes Law is not called into play. 

If convicted under the Three Strikes Law, all is not lost. Thanks to Proposition 36, you can appeal a Three Strikes Law sentence. Under Prop 36, a defendant may have their prison time reduced if their third conviction was not for a serious or violent crime. 
If you are facing a Three Strikes Law LA crime conviction, it may seem like the odds are fully against you. The H Law Group will not rest until we overturn your conviction. We are proud to defend the citizens of Los Angeles, Irvine, Temecula, San Diego, San Jose, Encino, and Orange Counties. Contact us for a consultation today at (888) 499-4948 or www.thehfirm.com.

H Law Group Online

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