California Three Strike Law: Penal Code Section 667

California Three Strike Law: Penal Code Section 667

California’s Three Strikes Law significantly impacts sentencing for repeat felony offenders. It mandates doubled sentences for individuals with one prior serious or violent felony upon any new felony conviction. For those with two such prior convictions, a third felony conviction leads to a minimum 25-year to life sentence, with parole eligibility determined by the Parole Board. This law underscores California’s firm stance against repeat serious or violent offenders.

The Three Strikes Law Statute

Understanding California’s Three Strikes Law requires familiarity with specific terms and categories.

  • Without Strike Enhancement: This category applies to individuals who do not receive strike enhancements for their sentence. They may, however, have other case or offense enhancements.
  • Doubled-Sentence Enhancement: This applies to individuals with prior strikes. They receive a doubled sentence for any new felony conviction. This is often referred to as a “second strike.”
  • Third-Strike Enhancement: This is for individuals with two prior strikes. They face a minimum of 25 years to life for a new serious or violent felony conviction.

A “strike” in the context of California’s Three Strikes Law refers to a conviction classified either as a violent felony, outlined in Penal Code 667.5 PC, or as a serious felony, detailed in Penal Code 1192.7 PC.

Sentence and Penalties for First Strike Offenders

  1. Initial Conviction Implications: The first strike, say for a serious offense like aggravated assault, does not trigger enhanced sentencing under the Three Strikes Law. The offender receives the standard penalty for that specific crime.
  2. Consequences of a Subsequent Felony: If the same individual is later convicted of a different felony, such as burglary, the Three Strikes Law activates. This results in enhanced penalties for the new felony conviction.
  3. Doubling of Sentence: After a first strike, the law dictates that any new felony conviction will have its sentence doubled. This is often referred to as the “second strike” scenario.

Sentence and Penalties for Second Strike Offenders

The second strike in California’s Three Strikes Law significantly escalates the consequences for repeat felony offenders. Here’s an overview of what a second strike entails:

  1. Activation of Enhanced Sentencing: When an individual with one prior serious or violent felony (the first strike) is convicted of any new felony, the law triggers enhanced sentencing. This is irrespective of whether the new felony is serious or violent.
  2. Doubling of the Sentence: The key feature of a second strike is the doubling of the sentence for the new felony conviction. For example, if the standard sentence for a new felony is five years, under a second strike, it becomes ten years.
  3. Cumulative Impact: The second strike underscores the cumulative nature of the Three Strikes Law. It serves as a significant deterrent, aiming to prevent repeat offenses by imposing harsher penalties.
  4. Broad Application: The second strike rule applies to any new felony conviction, not just serious or violent ones. This broad application reflects the law’s intent to reduce recidivism among individuals with prior serious or violent felony convictions.

Sentence and Penalties for Third Strike Offenders

The third strike in California’s Three Strikes Law represents the most severe level of sentencing under this statute. Here’s what it involves:

  1. Severe Sentencing for the Third Strike: When an individual with two prior serious or violent felony convictions (two strikes) is convicted of a new serious or violent felony, they face an indeterminate life sentence.
  2. Minimum Sentence of 25 Years: The law mandates a minimum sentence of 25 years to life for third strike offenders. This means the individual must serve at least 25 years before becoming eligible for parole.
  3. Impact on Parole Eligibility: The decision for parole in third strike cases is not automatic and involves a thorough review by the Parole Board, considering the offender’s behavior and rehabilitation while incarcerated.

Removing/Appealing a Strike under California’s Three Strikes Law

In California, there are legal avenues to challenge or appeal a strike on a criminal record under the Three Strikes Law. Here’s an overview of these processes:

  1. Romero Motion: A defendant can file a Romero motion, named after a landmark California Supreme Court case. This motion requests the court to dismiss a prior strike conviction for sentencing purposes. The decision to grant a Romero motion is at the judge’s discretion and typically considers factors like the nature of the previous strikes, the current offense, and the defendant’s overall criminal history and rehabilitation efforts.
  2. Appeal Process: If a defendant believes there was a legal error in their case, such as improper application of the Three Strikes Law, they can file an appeal. This process involves a higher court reviewing the original trial’s proceedings to determine if there were errors that significantly affected the outcome.
  3. Resentencing Under Proposition 36: Passed in 2012, Proposition 36 allows some third-strike offenders serving life sentences for non-serious, non-violent felonies to petition the court for a reduced sentence. Eligibility depends on the nature of the current and past offenses and requires that the offender does not pose an unreasonable risk to public safety.
  4. Habeas Corpus Petitions: In some cases, defendants may file a writ of habeas corpus, challenging the legality of their imprisonment. This can be based on new evidence, ineffective assistance of counsel, or other constitutional violations.

 

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One comment

  1. […] Robbery charges can escalate if the act benefits a gang, invoking California’s Gang Sentencing Enhancement Law. As a violent crime against a person, robbery falls under California’s Three Strikes laws. […]

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