Defending Against “Three Strikes” Criminal Charges in the State of California

While California’s “three strikes” law conjures images of America’s national pastime, it is anything but fun and games.  A “third strike” criminal conviction in the state of California can have serious long-term consequences in the form of a lengthy prison sentence. The purpose of this article is to explain how California’s “three strikes” law works. If you have been charged with a second, third, or subsequent felony in the state of California, it is imperative that you rely on a skilled and experienced California criminal defense attorney. Your future is at stake.

California’s Three Strikes Law was Reformed in 2012

There is some good news with regard to California’s Three Strikes Law. In 2012, the law was reformed to substantially limit the imposition of mandatory 25-years-to-life prison sentence for third-time offenders whose third offense does not rise to the level of a “violent” or “serious” felony. Think, for example, of the felony of possession of a controlled substance. Responding to public sentiment that the existing law was both unfair for treating non-violent offenders just as harshly as violent offenders, and costly for resulting in so many taxpayer-funded lengthy prison sentences, the reformed law makes important and effective distinctions. California’s three strikes law is still potent and bears much weight on an offender’s future freedom.

“Strikes” are Triggered by Felony Convictions in the State of California

Before the 2012 reforms made distinctions concerning “violent” and “serious” felonies, any felony conviction in the state of California triggered a “strike” under the state’s three strikes law. The lack of nuance had dire ramifications for proportionality. Imposing mandatory 25-years-to-life-sentences on offenders for a non-violent or non-serious felony conviction raised grave questions regarding the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. In addition, such sentences undermined one of the fundamental philosophies of the criminal justice system: rehabilitation. These are but a few of the problems associated with the old law. Since the reforms, the triggering of a “strike” is no longer so disturbingly simple.  In nearly all cases, a 25-years-to-life prison sentence may only be rightly levied if all three of an offender’s felony convictions rise to the level of “violent” or “serious.” This reform not only impacts individuals currently charged with one or more felonies, but also individuals who have already been convicted and sentenced for one or more felonies. As a result of the 2012 reforms, some individuals sentenced to lengthy prison terms under the old three strikes law are eligible for sentence reductions.

What to Do if You Have Been Charged With a Felony in the State of California

If you have been charged with a felony in the state of California, it is important that you contact an experienced California criminal defense attorney. While it is absolutely true the 2012 reforms to the state’s three strikes laws have brought fairness and proportionality, California is still tough on crime. For your future freedom, contact a skilled attorney immediately to mount the strongest possible defense.