The California three-strikes law, considered by many to be a harsh sentencing statute, may result in life prison sentences for defendants convicted of felony offenses who have suffered past felony “strike” offenses. Since 1996, under the appropriate circumstances, California judges have removed prior strike convictions “in furtherance of justice” resulting in shorter sentences for criminal defendants. Once dismissed, what happens to a dismissed strike, does it disappear?
On March 7, 1994, California’s “three-strikes” law went into effect, its purpose to significantly increase punishment for persons convicted of a felony who have previously been convicted of one or more “serious” or “violent” felonies. Any prior “serious” or “violent” felony conviction is a prior strike under California Penal Code § 667. This resulted in excessively harsh sentences for some criminal defendants.
In 1996, the California Supreme Court decided People v. Romero, which granted some relief. Sixteen years later in 2012, Proposition 36 was passed by California voters to further mitigate the harshness of the three-strikes law. In any criminal case involving a strike offense, experienced criminal defense attorneys always consider whether a Romero motion should be filed requesting that the trial judge strike one or more of a client’s past strike allegations.
The California Supreme Court agreed that the trial judge exercised a valid use of power in the Romero case striking the qualifying charges. However, the California high court also emphasized that this power is limited and must be exercised so as not to constitute an improper abuse of discretion.
A California court may, either on the motion of the prosecutor or the court’s motion, strike or dismiss one or more prior strikes in a criminal case, pursuant to a power vested in California courts since 1860 to dismiss all or part of an action for good cause and in furtherance of justice. The court must state on the record the facts which the court finds justify dismissing the prior strike.
When a strike is dismissed, the felony conviction does not disappear completely. The strike felony is only dismissed for purposes of sentencing the defendant regarding the current conviction. A decision to strike or dismiss a prior “strike” is appealable by the prosecution and reviewable by the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
For over forty years, the Dolan Law Offices have provided Californians with post-conviction services that clear their criminal record to further solidify their future as productive, law-abiding members of the Coachella Valley community. The attorneys at the Dolan Law Offices are experienced in helping California residents clear their criminal records. Call us today at (760) 775-3739 or find out more online here.