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Three Strikes Law -

       Many people have heard of the Three Strikes Law (3 Strikes Law) in California but don't quite understand it. In October 1993, a 12 year old Polly Klaas was kidnapped from her home in Petaluma and murdered by a repeat offender, Richard Allen Davis. Primarily motivated by this particular crime, the voters of California enacted the Three Strikes Law in 1994 when 72% of the people passed Proposition 184. Interestingly, the Initiative was entitled Three Strikes and You're Out. In fact, the way the Three Strikes Law works is that a person is "Out" after only two "Strikes" and then committing any other felony.

Penal Code §1192.7 - Qualification

       In order for a conviction to qualify as a "Strike" in California, it must be a felony that is deemed to be a "serious felony" or a "violent felony." Penal Code §1192.7 lists the crimes that qualify as a "serious felony" including, but not limited to: murder, voluntary manslaughter, rape, sodomy, lewd and lascivious act on a child under the age of 14 years, robbery, first degree burglary, gang offenses and many different firearm offenses.

Penal Code §667.5 - Violent Felonies

       Penal Code §667.5 lists the crimes that qualify as a "violent felony" including but not limited to: murder, voluntary manslaughter, rape and most of the other offenses that also qualify as a "serious felony."
The way that the Three Strikes Law works is that any person who commits a felony will have their sentence doubled if they have one "Strike" prior conviction. The current offense does not need to be a "Strike" offense. If the person commits a felony, even if it is a simple petty theft with a prior petty theft conviction and that person has two prior "Strike" offenses, then the stated punishment for the current offense is a minimum of 25 years to life - the same as someone who commits first degree murder.

       It appears that the people who voted in favor of the initiative assumed that the Three Strikes Law was focused on violent offenders, such as Richard Allen Davis. However, the law includes people who have never committed a violent offense or those who have stolen a slice of pizza, four chocolate chip cookies, nine videotapes, or even golf clubs.

Proposition 36

       In November, 2000, the majority of voters voted for Proposition 36 which modified the reach of the Three Strikes Law by providing for alternative drug treatment for those people who were convicted of possessing drugs. Previously, many of these drug offenders were facing life in prison.

Juvenile Adjudication

       In Peo v Nguyen, the California Supreme Court has recently ruled that juvenile adjudications can be used under the Three Strikes Law as qualifying prior felony convictions, even though a juvenile is not entitled to a jury trial. That means that a juvenile can accumulate two qualifying offenses as a juvenile, then as an adult commit a non-strike offense and receive a punishment of 25 years to life.

- Written by , Attorney at Law





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