As a result of an increase in violent crimes in the late 1980s and early 1990s, especially gang-related crimes, or what is sometimes referred to as gang warfare, members of the public as well as policy makers demanded stricter punishment for such crimes as well as violent crimes, in general. While most people accept that repeat criminal behavior may warrant additional penalties, the purpose of the passage and implementation of the “Three Strikes and You’re Out” Law of 1994 was to impose mandatory punishments upon criminals convicted of more than one serious or violent offense. If such criminal behavior continued, the penalties would become stiffer, including forfeiting one’s liberty for the remainder of his or her life. It is important to note, however, that although one can be sentenced to life without parole upon reaching his or her third offense, the law does not permit the penalty of capital punishment.
Each strike corresponds to the violent or serious felony. A second conviction (for a violent or serious felony) will result in the imposition of twice the amount of penalties, and a third conviction or strike could realistically result in the forfeiture of one’s liberty for the rest of his or her natural life at the maximum or a minimum of twenty-five years imprisonment. It should be noted that, because of the perceived egregiousness of repeated criminal activity, even after being given fair warning, a third strike need not be a violent or serious felony, but can be a petty offense.
Because of the serious nature of the “Three Strikes Law,” astute legal representation is not only advised, it is necessary. The law and founding principles of our legal and criminal justice systems include the belief that each defendant is innocent until proven guilty. However, for defendants with criminal backgrounds that make them eligible for increased sanctions under the law, and especially for those facing their final strike, this concept may not be true for the real life judges and juries who will be deciding whether defendants are guilty or not guilty. Therefore, having competent counsel who can frame a defense in the best light possible, despite the charges, is the greatest strategy there is for an increased chance of legal success.
It should also be noted, however, that your best defense against dealing with the increased penalties of a third strike, is to avoid it altogether. Even if you have been convicted of a felony or serious crime once, or even if you are facing your second strike, speak with us so we can advise you how to steer clear of the catastrophe that a third strike will inevitably bring.