Articles Tagged with Three strikes law

If you have been charged with a crime in California and already have previous convictions in the state on your criminal record, it is imperative that you contact an experienced California criminal defense attorney.  California has a “Three Strikes” law that serves as a basis for enhanced punishments for repeat offenders.  While the law has been reformed to be less punitive than in the past, it still packs a punch and can be applied to dole out lengthy prison sentences to repeat offenders. What counts as a “strike” under the law is of great importance. An experienced attorney will work hard to either defeat the charges against you or argue that they should not rise to the level of a “strike” under California’s “Three Strikes” law. In other words, an experienced criminal defense attorney will work to either keep you out of jail altogether or minimize the length of the sentence. Your very freedom is at stake, so do not delay in securing the skilled legal representation you so dearly need.

A Skilled Attorney May File a Romero Motion to Lessen the Number of Strikes Against You

One of the potential tools in the arsenal of an experienced California criminal defense attorney is what is known as a Romero motion. The name comes from the 1996 case People v. Romero, and allows a judge to, when appropriate, cancel previous strike allegations and the reduce the duration of a prison sentence.  In the case itself, Romero – the defendant – was convicted of possession of cocaine. Ordinarily, conviction for this type of drug possession would result in incarceration of up to three years. However, because of California’s “Three Strikes” law, prior to its reform, Romero faced a much longer potential sentence – life in prison. This is because the law, in its original form, authorized life sentences even if an offender’s third “strike” was for mere drug possession. Romero already had strikes for separate burglary convictions – both classified as serious felonies under state law. The possibility of life in prison for a drug possession third strike did not sit well with the Romero judge, so he decided to take action to circumvent the harshness of the law. Using discretion granted to California judges to dismiss actions “in the furtherance of justice,” the Romero judge reclassified the defendant’s previous convictions as non-strike offenses. The effect was to make the possession offense a first strike rather than a third strike, and the defendant was sentenced to six years rather than life in prison.

California’s Three Strikes sentencing law was enacted in 1994. The law enacted a life sentence for essentially any offense, even an extremely minor one, if the offender has two previous convictions for “serious” or “violent” crimes (according to the California Penal Code). Under the law, if a defendant is convicted of any felony, and already has a prior conviction of a serious or violent felony, the defendant will be sentenced to twice the prison term originally provided for the felony. If a defendant is convicted of any felony with two or more prior felony convictions (or “strikes”), the sentence is a prison term of at least 25 years to life. The three strikes sentencing structure was enacted to ensure that violent offenders are kept off the streets. However, an unfortunate side effect of this law has sentenced over half of inmates convicted under it for nonviolent crimes.

How is a “Serious” or “Violent” Felony defined?

Serious and violent felonies are defined in California Penal Code sections 667.5(c) and 1192.7(c). These types of felonies include burglary, robbery, kidnapping, murder, sex crimes, any offense in which a weapon was used and/or serious bodily injury occurred, arson, crimes involving the use of explosives, or any attempt to commit the aforementioned crimes.