Intending to increase punishment for repeat offenders, California passed a “three-strikes” law in 1994. According to the law, anyone who has been previously convicted of a serious felony will face much more severe consequences if they are convicted of a subsequent felony, even a relatively minor one, in the future.

Generally, a serious or violent felony is classified as a felony involving a violent act, crime involving a weapon or serious injury, or other severe offense. Some serious felonies include kidnapping, murder, and sex crimes such as rape. Upon a second felony offense, a defendant must go to prison and will not be eligible for probation or rehab. A second-time offender will also face double the sentence generally required for the new offense.

Upon a third felony offense, no matter how minor the felony is, the defendant will face a minimum of 25 years in prison and will not be able to earn time off his sentence. After the 25 years is served, he could be eligible for parole.

Some members of the California Legislature feel the 3-strike law is too harsh and are working to limit the 25-year minimum to people who commit a violent or serious third felony. However, no legislation to change the law has been passed.

People facing their third strike may have their attorney file a motion to have the judge strike the strike. In other words, the judge may look at the facts of the case in question and refuse to sentence the defendant in accordance with the three-strike law in the interest of justice. A criminal defense attorney can assist with filing this motion and help defend people facing their third felony offense.