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California Felony Sentencing: What it Means to Be a "Striker"

Since 1994, California has had a “Three Strikes” law regarding sentencing for repeat felony offenders. Under this law, individuals who are convicted of violent or otherwise serious felony crimes are issued a mark on their record known as a “strike.” In the event that a person should be convicted of a subsequent felony conviction, violent or not, this strike will cause them to face dramatically harsher penalties. Just like in baseball, three strikes and you’re out.

A third strike for a violent felony conviction will bring a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years to life in prison without eligibility for parole. This is not to say that a second strike is any less serious. Being convicted of a second strike can cause a person to face double the penalty for their new offense and require them to serve at least 80 percent of their sentence before being eligible for early release.

What is a “Serious” or “Violent” Felony?

A number of different offenses can result in a person receiving a strike on their record. All of these offenses either involve inflicting serious injury to another person, using or threatening to use a weapon, gang enhancement, or are sexual in nature.

A wide range of offenses can all result in a strike, including:

  • Murder
  • Voluntary manslaughter
  • Rape
  • Arson
  • Robbery
  • Kidnapping
  • Carjacking
  • Unlawful discharge of a firearm

It is possible for a person to be charged and convicted of multiple strikes in the same trial. For example, if a person were to threaten a person with a handgun only to then commit a subsequent carjacking, they could be charged with two separate strike offenses – even though they were part of the same incident.

The Impact of Prop 36 on Three Strikes Sentencing

While previously a third striker would face a life sentence for any third felony conviction, the passing of Proposition 36 in 2012 changed this to require a third strike to be a violent felony. This eliminated situations in which a person convicted of third strike shoplifting could receive a harsher sentence than a person convicted of murder. This legislation also made approximately 3,000 third strikers who were at the time serving life sentences eligible to have their sentences reduced.

Still, even if a third felony is not considered violent or serious by the courts, it will still bring an enhanced sentence. As it stands, no three strike inmates in California have been paroled, with the first of these inmates being eligible in 2019.

Skilled Criminal Defense Lawyers in Fairfield

If you are facing a strike on your record or already have a strike and are facing a subsequent felony charge, it is imperative you retain powerful legal counsel as soon as possible to protect your freedom. At The Maher Law Group, APC, our knowledgeable Fairfield criminal defense attorneys can provide the passionate advocacy you need to maximize your chances of securing a favorable outcome for your situation.

To find out more about what our award-winning attorneys can do for you, call (888) 744-3057 or schedule a free consultation today to review your legal options.

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