Many criminals convicted of crimes go to jail simply because the evidence of their guilt was unequivocal and, accordingly, they entered a guilty plea. However, this is not always the case. Our systems of law enforcement and jurisprudence are not flawless. As a result, many people are wrongly accused of or charged with a crime that they did not commit.
There are many reasons why injustice will always touch the lives of innocent people, whether through a wrong legal or factual conclusion, mistake, lack of credibility, bias, or prejudice. Perhaps the individual charged with allegedly committing the serious or violent offense was acting in self-defense or the defense of another.
Individuals who are charged with a violent crime in California face serious consequences since our State has some of the toughest penalties in the country for violent offenses. Individuals that are repeat offenders of violent or serious crimes risk significant prison time.
While anyone who has been charged and convicted of a violent crime faces a substantial jail sentence in a California state prison, this result also threatens the lives, safety, and well-being of innocent people. It is in these situations that it is crucial to have an experienced criminal defense attorney protecting your freedom.
On March 7, 1994, the “Three-Strikes and You’re Out Law” went into effect in California. With this law, California lawmakers intended to significantly increase punishment for persons convicted of a felony who had one or more prior “serious” or “violent” felony convictions. A “serious” or “violent” felony is known as one “strike” prior under the law.
A defendant who is convicted of any new felony who has one “strike” prior, known as a second striker, must do prison time and cannot be sent to a rehab facility or placed on probation. Also, this prison term must be twice the sentence otherwise prescribed for the new offense.
Additionally, this defendant must serve 80% of the sentence imposed, whereas non-strike prisoners generally receive between a one-third and one-half sentence reduction for good behavior and working in prison.
A defendant with two or more “strike” priors (a third striker) faces a minimum of 25-years-to-life in prison and earns no time off for good behavior or working in prison.
In November of 2012, California voters approved Proposition 36, which substantially amended the law with two provisions:
- The requirements for sentencing a defendant as a third-strike offender were changed to 25 years to life by requiring the new felony to be a serious or violent felony with two or more prior strikes to qualify for the 25 years-to-life sentence as a third-strike offender; and
- The addition of a means by which designated defendants currently serving a third-strike sentence may petition the court for reduction of their term to a second-strike sentence if they would have been eligible for second strike sentencing under the new law.
A “violent felony” is defined in California Penal Code § 667.5(c) and a “serious felony” in § 1192.7(c). They include murder, most sex offenses, burglary of a residence, robbery, any offense in which a weapon was personally used regardless of whether anyone was injured, any offense in which great bodily injury was inflicted, arson, kidnapping, crimes involving explosive devices, or attempts to commit any of the offenses listed in § 667.5(c) and § 1192.7(c).
In 2019, Californians who commit violent crimes face very serious penalties, especially since most violent crimes may be categorized as felony offenses. If convicted, defendants may be sentenced to jail, fines, restitution, probation, and parole. They may also lose the right to own or possess a weapon, as well as other penalties that are not insignificant. Committing any of these offenses may ultimately result in extended sentences without the chance of early release.
John Patrick Dolan is a California State Bar Certified Specialist in Criminal Law. Certification as a Specialist in Criminal Law is the highest achievement awarded by the State Bar of California to attorneys in the field of criminal law. The attorneys at the Dolan Law Offices have decades of experience defending individuals charged with violent felonies. Call us today at (760) 775-3739 or find out more online here.