In 1994, California Governor Pete Wilson signed the Three Strikes law, greatly increasing punishment for repeat felony offenders. The Three Strikes law applies to certain enumerated felonies that are considered the most offensive. Crimes like robbery, residential burglary, rape, murder, and even criminal threats are some of the strike charges for the purposes of the Three Strikes law.

General Felony Sentencing Principles

Felony convictions can result in two possible sentences:

  1. Up to a year in the local jail and then release on probation
  2. A sentence in the state prison and a release on parole

Each felony charge has a state prison sentencing range that breaks down into three potential sentences. These possible terms are referred to as low-term, mid-term and high-term. The low-term is also referred to as the mitigated term because it is given to people whose crime or criminal history reflects mitigating circumstances and consequently a shorter sentence. The high-term is referred to as the aggravated term because there is usually something about the facts of the case or the individual's history that makes their case aggravated and warrants a greater punishment.

If an individual commits a strike offense, that strike can be used against him in all future felony cases. The strike will have the effect of doubling the base terms of future cases. For example, an individual who is in possession of methamphetamine has a state prison sentencing range of 16 months, two years, or three years. If that person has a strike prior, then that range doubles to 32 months, four years or six years. Also, that individual with the strike prior will do 80% of the sentence he receives instead of the typical 50%.

If an individual has two or more prior strike offenses, then any future felonies will expose that individual to 25 years to life in prison. This means that the individual would not be eligible for parole until he had completed 25 years in prison.

Striking Strikes

A judge and a district attorney have the power to strike a strike. This means that a strike does not necessarily have to be applied to a new case just because an individual has strikes in his or her past. For example, that same individual from above on the possession of methamphetamine case who has one strike prior, could have that strike stricken for the purposes of sentencing and receive 16 months state prison. With the strike stricken, that person would also be eligible to do his time at 50% instead of the 80% that his or her strike prior qualifies him or her for.

The Real Problem With Strikes

Once you have a strike prior, it now becomes more difficult to fight your cases. If you lose at trial, your sentencing is in the hands of your trial judge. It is in his or her discretion to apply your prior strikes or not apply them. Consequently, you could get 25 to life in prison if you lose at trial and the judge decides to apply two or more of your prior strikes.

People with strike priors have more to risk than most others when they pick up new criminal cases. The attorneys at Law Office of John D. Barnett are experts in third strike cases. Their experience is unparalleled and they fear no case. Come talk to the attorneys at Law Office of John D. Barnett so you can understand your rights and potential sentences. Hire Law Office of John D. Barnett because you want the best possible conclusion to your case.