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In California, the Three Strikes Law has been a subject of debate, controversy, and concern for over two decades. Designed with the intent to deter repeat offenders and keep dangerous criminals behind bars, this law has far-reaching implications for individuals facing criminal charges in the state. 

If you or a loved one is facing a potential three-strikes scenario, do not hesitate to contact us at Manshoory Law Group for personalized legal assistance and strategic defense strategies. Call us at (877) 590-7054. 

What is the California Three Strikes Law? 

The California Three Strikes Law is a sentencing policy enacted in 1994 with the aim of imposing harsher penalties on individuals convicted of multiple serious or violent felonies. You may receive a strike on your record if you get convicted of a violent or serious felony. 

Suppose you get convicted of any felony, and you already have one strike on your record. In that case, you will get double the sentence for the new offense. 

A defendant with two prior strikes who is convicted of a third violent or serious felony faces a mandatory sentence of 25 years to life in prison. The third strike triggers the most severe consequences, often referred to as a “third strike and you’re out” law.

Note that not all felonies qualify as strikes under the law. The list of qualifying offenses includes a range of serious and violent crimes, such as the following: 

  • Voluntary manslaughter or murder
  • Rape
  • Extortion
  • Oral copulation or sodomy by force
  • Carjacking
  • Arson 
  • Kidnapping
  • Robbery
  • First-degree burglary 
  • Sale of PCP, methamphetamine, heroin, or cocaine to a child 
  • Grand theft involving a firearm

Generally, any offense involving a firearm can qualify as a strike. Moreover, certain juvenile offenses can be counted as strikes, provided the minor was 16 years or older when they committed the offense. 

Additionally, out-of-state convictions for serious or violent felonies can count as strikes in California courts. You can also get two or more strikes at once in a single court proceeding, depending on the facts and circumstances of your case. 

California Three Strikes Law

Can a Court Remove Prior Strikes? 

Luckily, a court can remove a prior strike in the interests of justice. This can happen in two ways: 

  • At the prosecutor’s sole discretion — In some cases, the prosecutor may choose to “strike” a strike. This is especially true if they believe that the defendant should not be treated as a striker or if the strike is too difficult for them to prove. 
  • The defense filing a motion to dismiss the strike — In some cases, the defense may file a motion to remove a strike. This is commonly referred to as a “Romero” motion. Named after the legal case People v. Romero, a Romero motion allows a judge to dismiss one or more prior strikes in the interest of justice. Here, the defense’s central argument will be that enforcing the three strikes law in its entirety would result in an unjust and overly harsh sentence. 

Removing a strike is not guaranteed, and each case is considered on its own merits. Factors such as the nature of prior convictions, the current offense, and the defendant’s overall criminal history are considered. 

The Eligibility of Second and Third Strikes Defendants for Parole 

Some two and three strikers may be eligible for parole, thanks to California’s Proposition 57. Proposition 57 states that any individual convicted of a non-violent felony qualifies for parole, provided they have completed their primary sentence

Here, the primary sentence means the sentence imposed for the particular offense the defendant committed. It does not include the sentencing enhancements imposed due to strikes. This means that as long as a second or third striker was convicted of a non-violent felony and has completed their primary sentence, they can apply for parole. 

What is the California One Strike Law?

The California One Strike Law extends the prison sentences for individuals convicted of certain sex offenses. This law is commonly referred to as “the one-strike law” because it imposes an extended sentence from the first conviction

Some examples of sex offenses that can be counted as strikes under this law include the following: 

  • Rape 
  • Lascivious or lewd acts
  • Oral copulation 
  • Sodomy 
  • Continuous sexual abuse of a minor 

Note that the strike is not automatically imposed for convictions of these offenses. You can only get a strike if there are certain aggravating factors in your case, such as the following: 

  • You have been previously convicted of any of these sexual offenses 
  • You gave the victim a controlled substance before committing the offense 
  • You injured the victim 
  • You kidnapped the victim 
  • You bound or tied the victim 
  • You used a dangerous weapon to commit the offense 

A one-strike can result in an extended sentence of 15-25 years. In some cases, the judge may impose a life sentence. 

Three Strikes Law

How to Defend Yourself in a Three-Strikes Case

Defending yourself in a three-strikes case can be complex and challenging, given the severe consequences associated with multiple convictions. If you or someone you know is facing a three-strikes lawsuit in California, here are some general strategies that may be considered

  • Challenging prior strikes — Investigate the validity of previous strikes. If there are errors in the record or the prior convictions can be successfully challenged or overturned, it may impact the application of the three strikes law.
  • Negotiating a plea deal — Depending on the circumstances of the case, it may be possible to negotiate a plea deal with the prosecution. This could involve seeking reduced charges or alternative sentencing options.
  • Challenging the current charges — Scrutinize the details of the current charges. A skilled attorney may be able to challenge the evidence against you, question the legality of searches or arrests, or identify other weaknesses in the prosecution’s case.
  • Romero motion — Consider filing a Romero motion. As we have earlier stated, this motion requests the court to dismiss one or more prior strikes in the interests of justice. The success of a Romero motion depends on various factors, including the nature of the prior convictions and the current offense.

Defending against three strikes charges requires a comprehensive understanding of criminal law and the specific circumstances surrounding your case. Consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney is highly recommended to develop a defense strategy tailored to your situation.

How Do I Appeal a Three-Strike Sentence?

You can appeal a three-strike sentence with the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney. 

Proposition 36, also known as the Three Strikes Reform Act of 2012, brought significant changes to California’s Three Strikes Law. Initially, you could be made a third striker even if the third conviction was for a non-violent or non-serious felony. Californians could be jailed for 25 years or even for life after a simple theft or drug crime conviction. 

One of the key provisions of Proposition 36 is the opportunity for resentencing for certain three-strikes convicts, specifically those whose third-strike convictions were for non-violent and non-serious offenses.

This means that if you meet the eligibility criteria, you can file a petition for resentencing. Then, the court will review the petition and assess whether resentencing is appropriate. 

If the court grants the petition, the inmate will be resentenced. The new sentence will typically reflect the second-strike penalty for the current offense rather than the 25-year or life sentence mandated by the California Three Strikes Law. In most cases, such appeals result in the inmate being released early – or immediately. 

You can also appeal a three-strike sentence on the basis that it is unusual or cruel punishment and, therefore, unconstitutional. This is especially true if the 25-year to life sentence imposed is disproportionate to the actual crime committed. 

Navigating a three-strikes case demands a nuanced understanding of both the legal framework and the specific details of individual cases. If you or a loved one is grappling with the complexities of a three-strikes conviction or exploring the possibilities of Proposition 36 resentencing, our experienced team is here to offer guidance and support.

Do not face the challenges of a three-strikes case alone. Contact us at Manshoory Law Group for a free, confidential consultation. Together, we will discuss the details of your situation and explore the potential avenues for relief available to you. Call us at (877) 590-7054

Shaheen Manshoory
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