Many Californians are unaware that they could face a life sentence upon a first-time offense if convicted of certain crimes under California “one-strike law.” California’s one strike law, found in California Penal Code § 667.61, extends prison sentences for certain sex crimes. Legal scholars and lawyers refer to it as the “one-strike law” because a qualifying offense’s longer sentences apply to the first conviction.

The “one-strike law” is very similar to California’s “three-strikes law” as it serves as a sentencing enhancement for specific crimes. Any defendant convicted of committing a crime where certain aggravating circumstances are present must receive a sentence enhancement that results in a 15-year, 25-year, or life prison sentence.

The one strike law applies to individuals convicted of specific crimes with certain “aggravating factors.” These crimes include the following offenses:

  1. Rape, in violation of § 261.
  2. Spousal rape, in violation of § 262.
  3. Rape, spousal rape, or sexual penetration, in concert, in violation of § 264.1.
  4. Lewd or lascivious act, in violation of subdivision (b) of § 288.
  5. Sexual penetration, in violation of subdivision (a) of § 289.
  6. Sodomy, in violation of § 286.
  7. Oral copulation, in violation of § 287 or former § 288a.
  8. Lewd or lascivious act, in violation of § 288.
  9. Continuous sexual abuse of a child, in violation of § 288.5.

Aggravating factors that may trigger a one-strike law sentence include:

  • The defendant was previously convicted of one of these crimes,
  • The defendant committed the offense during a first-degree burglary,
  • The defendant inflicted great bodily harm on the victim
  • The defendant inflicted bodily harm on the victim who was under age 14,
  • The defendant kidnapped the victim,
  • The defendant used a dangerous or deadly weapon or firearm to commit the crime,
  • The defendant tied or bound the victim, or
  • The defendant gave the victim a controlled substance.

Thus, the sentence enhancement is heavily reliant on the defendant’s conduct. The term “bodily harm” means any substantial physical injury resulting from the use of force that is more than the force necessary to commit an offense specified in the applicable section of the statute.

As mentioned, the one-strike law may extend a sentence for one of these crimes to 15, 25 years, or life imprisonment. California courts are required to impose a consecutive sentence for each offense that results in a conviction if the crimes involve separate victims or involve the same victim on separate occasions. If a victim was under 14 at the time of the offense, the defendant’s sentence is enhanced to life. If the victim was under 18 but above 14 at the time of the offense, the defendant’s sentence is enhanced to twenty-five (25) years.

John Patrick Dolan is a California State Bar Certified Specialist in Criminal Law, the highest achievement awarded by the State Bar of California to attorneys in the field of criminal law. Call today at (760) 775-3739 or find out more online here.

What Is California’s One-Strike Law?

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