Three Strikes Defense
California has the toughest Three Strikes law in the country. Crimes that seem relatively minor can result in prison sentences of 25 years to life under California’s law because any felony, including nonviolent felonies, can be a third strike offense. If you are convicted of a second strike offense, the prison sentence that you would normally receive for that offense is doubled. For third strike offenses, a conviction could result in you facing a sentence of 25 years to life.
First and Second Strike Offenses
To get a first and second strike on your record, you must be convicted of a crime that is defined as either “serious” or “violent” under California’s Penal Code. Such crimes include:
- Murder or voluntary manslaughter
- Sodomy by force, violence, duress, or fear
- Oral copulation by force, violence duress, or fear
- Lewd acts on a child under 14 years old
- Any felony punishable by death or life in state prison
- Any felony where great bodily injury is inflicted and is proven in an enhancement
- Any felony where a defendant personally uses a firearm and this is proven in an enhancement
- Any robbery
- Forcible act of sexual penetration
- Attempted murder
- Assault with intent to commit robbery, mayhem, rape, sodomy, or oral copulation
- Assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer
- Assault by a life prisoner in a non-inmate
- Assault with a deadly weapon by an inmate
- Continuous sexual abuse of a child
- Rape or penetration by a foreign object when acting in concert using force or duress
- Threats to victims or witnesses
- Residential burglary
- Exploding a destructive device with intent to injury, or causing bodily injury, or with intent to murder Holding of a hostage by a state prison inmate
- Attempt to commit any felony punishable by death of life in state prison
- Any felony where the defendant personally used a dangerous or deadly weapon
- Selling, giving, or offering to provide heroin, cocaine, PCP, or methamphetamines to a minor
- Grand theft involving a firearm
- Certain gang-related felony offenses
- Throwing acid or flammable substances
- Assault with a deadly weapon, firearm, machinegun, etc. Assault on a peace officer or firefighter
- Assault with a deadly weapon against a public transit employee, custodial officer, or school employee
- Shooting from a vehicle
- Criminal threats
It is important to consult with an attorney to determine whether your prior convictions meet the legal definition for being a strike. You can get two strikes on your record from convictions resulting from one course of events. For example, if you robbed someone and assaulted them with a firearm in the process, you may be convicted of two strikes. Convictions from other states may also count as strikes in California.
Third Strike Offenses
Once you have two strikes on your record, any felony conviction can be a third strike. This may include something as minor as a drug offense or a minor theft charge. The Supreme Court has determined that it does not violate the constitution for California to sentence people to 25 years to life for third strike offenses such as stealing 3 golf clubs or shoplifting 4 videocassettes. Due to the serious consequences of the Three Strikes law, it is important to work with your attorney to avoid any strike convictions on your record. If you believe that you may already have strike convictions and you are charged with a new offense, talk with an attorney immediately to evaluate your options.
Your attorney may be able to file a motion asking the court to overlook or disregard a prior strike conviction from your record (this is known as a Romero motion). Your attorney will need to convince the Judge to do so in the interest of justice.
Juvenile cases can also count as strikes in adult court if you were at least 16 years old when the crime occurred. However, not all crimes that are strikes for adults count as strikes for juveniles. For example, criminal threats is a strike for adults but not for juveniles whose cases were processed through juvenile court. The rules for adult strikes apply to any case where a juvenile was processed through adult court.
If you are accused of a strike offense under California’s Three Strikes law, it is important to contact a qualified criminal defense attorney immediately and start working on a defense plan for your case. For a free and confidential consultation, call Three Strikes defense attorney Jerod Gunsberg in Los Angeles at (323) 633-3423 or get in touch via the secure contact form on this page. Help is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.