It is always a good idea to avoid a conviction for criminal offenses if you can possibly help it. In addition to facing any penalties that a judge may hand down as part of your sentencing, living with the stigma and limitations associated with having a criminal record is a burden best avoided. However, it is especially important to avoid racking up multiple felony convictions in California. As a result of the Golden State’s “Three Strikes Law,” if you are convicted of a third felony after two previous felony convictions have been entered against you, you’ll risk being imprisoned for 25 years to life, regardless of the nature of the felony itself, special circumstances, or the severity of the crime.
As Originally Envisioned
When California’s Three Strikes sentencing law was originally passed in 1994, mandatory sentencing minimums were popular policies across the country. The logic behind strict mandatory minimums is that taking away judicial discretion would lead to a crackdown on crime and reduce sentencing disparities across the board. Unfortunately, it was only after mandatory minimums had ripped apart families needlessly and destroyed an untold number of lives that policies began to shift away from strict sentencing requirements that couldn’t be disregarded by judges.
In its original form, the Three Strikes law was dangerously straightforward. If someone had been sentenced to a serious felony, they’d be required to serve twice the term of imprisonment ordinarily required by law if they were convicted of a second felony. If they were then convicted of a third felony after incurring two previous “strikes,” they’d be sentenced to a minimum of 25 years imprisonment regardless of what the third felony consisted of, whether any special circumstances should have been taken into consideration, or the length of time between felony convictions.
As an experienced San Francisco, CA criminal defense attorney – including those who practice at the Morales Law Firm – can confirm, this mandatory minimum sentencing law caused profound needless suffering on the part of non-violent repeat offenders and their loved ones.
Nearly 20 years after the original Three Strikes law was passed, California voters approved Proposition 36 at the ballot box. This referendum significantly amended the original Three Strikes law. Its most striking changes involved the circumstances under which someone could be classified as a third strike offender. As amended, the Three Strikes law can only impose a minimum sentence of 25 years imprisonment for a third felony offense if the third offense is violent or otherwise truly serious in nature.