California’s three-strikes law was originally enacted in 1994. The three-strikes law’s purpose was to require a defendant convicted of a felony, who already had one prior conviction of a serious felony, to be sentenced to state prison for twice the usual sentencing term for the crime. If the defendant had two or more prior strikes, the law mandated a state prison term of at least 25 years to life for a third conviction. In 2012, California voters approved Proposition 36 which changed the three-strikes law by requiring any new felony to be a serious or violent felony for applicability of the rule mandating a 25 years-to-life sentence as a third strike offender.
A “strike” under California three-strikes law is a conviction for either
- a “violent” felony under California Penal Code § 667.5, or
- a “serious” felony under California Penal Code § 1192.7(c).
A “violent felony” is any of the following in California:
(1) Murder or voluntary manslaughter.
(3) Rape as defined by applicable California law.
(4) Sodomy as defined by applicable California law.
(5) Oral copulation as defined by applicable California law.
(6) Lewd or lascivious act as defined by applicable California law.
(7) Any felony punishable by death or imprisonment in the state prison for life.
(8) Any felony in which the defendant inflicts great bodily injury on any person other than an accomplice which has been charged and proved, or any felony in which the defendant uses a firearm which use has been charged and proved.
(9) Any robbery.
(10) Arson, in violation of applicable California law.
(11) Sexual penetration as defined by applicable California law.
(12) Attempted murder.
(13) A violation of § 18745 (any person who explodes, ignites, or attempts to explode or ignite any destructive device or any explosive with intent to commit murder), § 18750 (any person who willfully and maliciously explodes or ignites any destructive device or any explosive that causes bodily injury to any person), or § 18755 (any person who willfully and maliciously explodes or ignites any destructive device or any explosive that causes the death of any person).
(15) Assault with the intent to commit a specified felony, in violation of applicable California law.
(16) Continuous sexual abuse of a child, in violation of applicable California law.
(17) Carjacking, as defined by applicable California law.
(18) Rape, spousal rape, or sexual penetration, in concert, in violation of applicable California law.
(19) Extortion, as defined by applicable California law, which would constitute a felony violation of applicable California law.
(20) Threats to victims or witnesses, as defined by applicable California law, which would constitute a felony violation as defined by applicable California law.
(21) Any burglary of the first degree, as defined by applicable California law, wherein it is charged and proved that another person, other than an accomplice, was present in the residence during the commission of the burglary.
(22) Any violation of § 12022.53. (California’s “Use A Gun and You’re Done” law.)
(23) A violation of subdivision (b) or (c) of § 11418. (Any person, without lawful authority, who possesses, develops, manufactures, produces, transfers, acquires, or retains any weapon of mass destruction.) The Legislature finds and declares that these specified crimes merit special consideration when imposing a sentence to display society’s condemnation for these extraordinary crimes of violence against the person.
California Penal Code § 1192.7(c) lists 42 felonies that it considers to be “serious” for purposes of the three-strikes law. These include all the “violent” felonies and many more.
Examples of a “serious felony” include the following:
- Any felony where the defendant uses a firearm;
- Any felony where the defendant personally inflicts great bodily injury or harm;
- Grand theft using a firearm;
- First-degree burglary;
- Robbery; and
- Sale of heroin, cocaine, PCP or methamphetamine to a minor.
It’s possible to receive more than one strike in one judicial proceeding. It is also possible to receive a strike for certain crimes committed as a juvenile, provided that the defendant was at least 16 years of age when the crime was committed. Out-of-state convictions may count as prior strikes provided that the out-of-state crime contains all the elements of a serious or violent felony as defined by California law.
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.