3 - Three Strikes

3 - Three Strikes

he three strikes law in California in a sentencing enhancement that can result in a life sentence depending on the defendant’s criminal history.

Certain felonies are considered “strikes.” These strikes are felonies that are considered either violent or serious. Some charges that are considered strikes or assault with a weapon, or assault with that causes great bodily harm, or crime that benefit a criminal street gang.

A defendant can’t be struck out unless he commits a new felony after being convicted of prior strikes. For example defendant is involved in a gang related assault where there are two victims. Defendant pleads guilty to two counts of assault with a weapon. Now defendant has two strikes on his record. Because of the defendants youth and lack of prior record defendant serves only a short time in jail.

Once a defendant has two strikes any felony can be used to sentence them to life in prison. For example sometime with in the next ten years the defendant is accused of simple possession of meth-amphetamine, if convicted of simple possession, he could receive a life sentence for possession of ten dollars worth of meth.

If instead of two strikes the defendant has just one strike, his sentence will be doubled. So if defendant can be sentenced to prison for 2, 3, or 4 years for the crime his sentence will be doubled to 4, 6, or 8 years. In addition to the sentence the defendant will have to serve a minimum of 85 percent of that sentence. Defendants without strikes have to serve half of their sentence. Even one strike can drastically increase a defendant’s sentence.

Strikes must be plead and proven just like any other element or crime and the burden is on the prosecution to prove the strikes. A skilled attorney may be able to raise reasonable doubt that these strikes happened. An attorney can also negotiate with the district attorney or judge to have one or more the strikes dismissed.

Even if the Strikes are proven, an experience attorney can make a motion to have the strikes dismissed. This is called a Romero motion. A Romero motion is an argument made to the judge that he should dismiss the strikes out of fairness to the defendant. The judge must consider all the circumstances in the case and then decide if enforcing the sentence with the three strikes would be fair.

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