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What might the Californian three strikes law mean for you?


The Californian three strikes law was first implemented in 1994, partly as a result of the outcry following the Polly Klaas murder case. Initially the law was one of the strictest pieces of criminal legislation ever implemented in the US. The original law stated that if a defendant committed a serious felony on two occasions, the sentence for the second offense would be twice as long as normal. If the defendant then committed a further felony they could be sentenced to anything from twenty-five years to life.

This meant that someone could be sentenced to twenty-five years for an offense such as petty theft, if they have previously been convicted of two serious felonies. This initial version of the law was unpopular as many people thought it was harsh and unfair. As a result, changes were made when Proposition 36 was implemented in 2012.

What did Proposition 36 change?

The main thing that changed with Proposition 36 was that the third strike offense had to be a serious or violent felony, in order for the twenty-five years to life sentencing to apply. This is not to say that the law will take it easy on you if you have been found guilty of a less serious offense, such as a DUI. If you have been convicted of two serious felonies previously, you are still likely to face a harsher sentence than normal. You should speak to your Los Angeles DUI attorney, for advice and representation.

What constitutes a serious or violent felony?

There is a long list of serious and violent felonies, according to California law. These felonies include:

  • Murder
  • Attempted murder
  • Rape
  • Robbery
  • Arson
  • Kidnapping
  • Carjacking

This list is not exhaustive; these are just some of the most familiar serious and violent crimes that are taken account of in the three strikes law.

Facts about the three strikes law

There are some other facts about the three strikes law, that you may find useful to know. Firstly, you can be sentenced according to the law, even if one or more of your convictions took place before 1994, when the law was introduced. It's only the last conviction that has to have happened after the law was introduced.

Secondly, out of state offenses can count towards three strikes sentencing. This happens if the crime was such as to warrant a serious felony conviction under California law.

Hopefully, you should now be more aware of what the Californian three strikes law is all about, and how it could be relevant to you. The law is less severe than it was when it was introduced in 1994. This does not mean it should be underestimated. If you are convicted of three serious felonies, you are going to be facing a sentence of twenty-five years to life after the third. Even if your third offense is less serious, you are still likely to receive a much stiffer sentence than you would normally.

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