In 1994, California enacted its “Three Strikes” law. This law significantly changed the sentencing structure in convictions for defendants who had previously been convicted of certain felonies.
What is a strike?
A “strike” is essentially a conviction for a felony that is considered “serious” or “violent” under California statutes. Examples of serious felonies include murder, voluntary manslaughter, kidnapping, burglary, robbery, certain assaults, and arson. Examples of violent felonies include lewd acts on a child, attempted murder, rape, kidnapping and any felony causing great bodily injury.
What are the consequences of having a strike?
A strike for a prior conviction (a “strike prior”) affects the sentencing in a future felony, whether the new crime is a strike or not. (1) Defendants with a strike prior cannot receive probation for a new felony and must serve a prison sentence if convicted. (2) Defendants with a strike prior must be sentenced to double the prison sentence if convicted of a new felony. For example, if the defendant receives the recommended low term of 16 months for the new crime, the actual sentence will be 32 months. (3) Defendants with a strike prior must serve 80% of the sentence if convicted of a new felony (or 85% if the current felony is serious or violent). Normally, defendants without a strike prior serve about 50% of their sentence.
What are the consequences of having two or more strikes on your record?
After two felony strikes, an individual faces 25 years to life in prison for any subsequent felony, even if the new felony is not itself a strike offense. It does not matter if the first two strikes occurred years or decades earlier.
Is it possible to avoid the consequences of a strike prior?
Despite the mandatory sentence structure of the three strikes law, it is possible to have a strike prior “stricken” or dismissed and not considered for purposes of sentencing in a new felony. The district attorney has discretion to strike a strike prior if they feel that applying the three strikes law is too severe. Strike priors can also be stricken by the judge in response to a motion filed by the defendant’s attorney if the court finds that the present crime is not the type of crime that the three strikes law is meant to encompass.