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California Three Strikes Law

Three Strikes And You Are Out?

California's Imposition of Injustice

History of California's Three Strikes Law

In 1994, the California Legislature made history when they enacted the "Three Strikes Law," thereby creating one of the harshest sentencing schemes in the country for all repeat felony offenders who committed serious or violent offenses after June 30, 1993.

Later, in 2000, the California Legislature enacted Proposition 21, which changed the Three Strikes Law, and expanded the definition of a strike for certain offenses committed after March 8, 2000. This expansion included new offenses, such as assault with a deadly weapon or force likely to create great bodily injury, witness intimidation and shooting a firearm from a vehicle.

Defining the "Strike" Zone.

The Three Strikes Law is an alternative sentencing scheme for repeat offenders which states that if someone commits any felony after he or she has been previously convicted of one serious or violent felony, then the Court must sentence the person to twice the normal amount of prison time and the person must serve at least 80 percent of the sentence. The Court is prohibited from granting probation or diversion, which means that the person absolutely must serve state prison time.

If someone has previously been convicted of two or more serious or violent felonies, then he or she is to be sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole.

What defines a serious or violent felony, under the Three Strikes sentencing scheme, is defined in California Penal Code 667.5(c) and 1192.7(c). Serious and Violent felonies include crimes such as murder, rape, oral copulation by force, lewd or lascivious act with a minor, robbery, carjacking, assault with a deadly weapon, arson, and/or any offense where the defendant allegedly inflicted great bodily injury or harm on another person.

As of January 1, 2007, there are approximately 41,220 second and third "strikers" in the California Department of Corrections (CDC).