California Three Strikes: The Original Law
The Three Strikes law as originally passed in California mandated defendants who had a prior serious felony conviction to serve twice the prison sentence provided for the new underlying felony. Moreover, under the original three strikes law, a defendant convicted of any felony with two prior strikes, would automatically face twenty-five years to life in state prison. The problem with the original Three Strikes law is that any felony, even non-violent and non-serious felonies were being counted as a third strikes against defendants. This resulted in about 3,000 defendants in California serving life sentences for relatively minor third convictions.
Proposition 36: Reform
Proposition 36, which passed with more than 68% of the vote, revised the law to change the requirements for sentencing a defendant as a third strike offender. Now only serious or violent felony offenses will result in life sentences as third strikes. Proposition 36 Reform allows prisoners currently serving life sentences in California under the original Three Strikes law, the opportunity for re-sentence if their third conviction was not a serious or violent felony.
Landmark Case of People v. Romero (1996)
Allowed the California Supreme Court the discretion to dismiss a criminal defendant's prior strike under California's Three Strikes Law. The holding was that California courts must consider striking a defendant's prior strikes if they find that the defendant may be deemed outside the sentencing scheme's spirit, in whole or in part. The courts will make this determination in light of the nature and circumstances of a defendant's criminal record, and the particulars of his background, character, prospects. Ultimately, a finding that the defendant is deemed outside the sentencing scheme's spirit would mean that the defendant should be treated as though he had not previously been convicted of a strike.
Current Three Strikes Law
However, the law continues to impose a life sentence for certain other serious nonviolent sex or drug related third convictions, or if the third conviction involves firearm possession. California's Three Strikes current sentencing scheme now only gives a strike to repeat offenders convicted of serious or violent felonies. With each strike adding significant time to their prison sentences. Except for now, a person facing a third conviction for a non-serious or non-violent felony, will only be sentenced to twice the normal sentence for that third offense instead of 25 years to life. In effect, a third strike life sentence under the California’s Three Strikes sentencing scheme is now only applicable for people convicted of a third serious or violent felony.
Understanding Penal Code Section 1192.8
Under the current sentencing scheme, strikes can result from the following convictions:
Serious Felonies under PC 1192.7(c)
Includes voluntary, involuntary, vehicular manslaughter, while intoxicated, evading an officer and reckless driving that proximately causes great bodily injury.
Violent Felonies under PC 677.5 (c)
Includes attempted murder, assault with intent to commit rape, assault with a deadly weapon or instrument on a peace officer. As well as any felony punishable by death or imprisonment in California state prison for life. Any felony in which the defendant personally inflicts great bodily injury on any person, other than an accomplice,or any felony in which the defendant personally uses a firearm.
Designated defendants should contact experienced local criminal defense attorney Vik Monder. Attorney Monder will be able to determine if you are eligible for second strike sentencing under the reform by looking at the specific facts of your case to see if they qualify as violent or serious felonies. In order to strike a prior strike in the furtherance of justice Attorney Monder will file a Romero motion under PC 1386. The court will then consider a variety of factors relating to the particular circumstances surrounding the prior conviction. Like the nature and circumstances of your criminal record, your background, character, and prospects. However, the most significant factor considered by the court is the age of the strike. While it is generally more difficult to convince a judge to strike a strike that is less than ten years old. A skillful criminal defense attorney can successfully mitigate the recency of the prior offense and put together evidence to show the court the positive steps you have taken in your life since the strike, and the characteristics that now define you.
Attorney Monder will be able to review the specific facts of your case to see if your charges qualify as violent or serious felonies. If your current charges are for a serious or violent felony, these are strikable offenses and you must do everything you can to fight the conviction. At Monder Law Group our first approach is to dismiss the charge at all costs. When the evidence does not allow us to succeed in obtaining a dismissal, we work zealously to reduce the felony charges to misdemeanors. To do so we must be very creative in how we either plead to the charges if you want us to negotiate a plea deal or how we choose our jury instructions if you decide to go to trial. At Monder Law group we know what is on the line for our clients, you have the last say in your defense and we are willing to go all the way to trial to secure a Not Guilty.