California Three Strikes Law Amended
Relief at last is available for many California defendants who are serving life sentences under the Three Strikes Law. Recently, California enacted Senate Bill 9 into law, whereby criminal defendants who were under age eighteen at the time of their crime and who were sentenced to life in prison without parole can ask the sentencing court to review their cases and consider permitting parole after serving twenty-five years in prison. Election Night 2012 provided another sentencing reform breakthrough in California with the passage of Proposition 36.
Proposition 36 serves to reform the draconian “Three Strikes” law. The California Three Strikes Law required judges to sentence third-time offenders who have committed two previous violent or serious felonies to twenty-five to life prison terms for the commission of any third felony, regardless of the severity of the third felony. Although twenty-four other states possess Three Strikes laws, only California’s law permitted the third strike to be for any type of felony. However, with the passage of Proposition 36, a life sentence can only be issued for a third felony when the third felony conviction is considered “serious or violent.” Offenders who were sentenced to life, despite the fact that their third felony was not serious or violent, can now seek sentence modification.
However, contrary to the rhetoric of those opposed to Proposition 36, the amended sentencing law will not lead to “property crimes going up all over the state, and in very short order.” The amended law continues to impose a life sentence penalty if the third strike conviction was for “certain non-serious, non-violent sex or drug offenses or involved firearm possession” and for third strike felonies that are “non-serious, non-violent third strike if prior convictions were for rape, murder, or child molestation.” Clearly, defendants deemed dangerous will not be loosed upon society.
In practical terms, the amended law will permit the approximately 3,000 convicted felons who were, as of November 2012 serving life terms under the Three Strikes law whose third strike conviction was for a nonviolent crime, to be eligible to petition the court for a reduced sentence. It has been estimated that these reduced sentences could save California, and its taxpayers, between $150 and $200 million per year.
If you would like to learn more about the Amended California Three Strikes Law and the legal services provided by NLPA, contact us today.