A California felony charge has the potential to upend your entire life if it leads to a conviction. If you have prior serious felony offenses, you may face even harsher penalties. In 1994, California implemented the “Three Strikes” sentencing law, which heightens the penalties leveled against offenders who receive subsequent convictions for serious or violent crimes.

The law has undergone several changes since it initially took effect. In 2012, California voters approved Proposition 36, which offers further clarification about how the three-strikes law works and who it impacts.

The law’s provisions

The three-strikes law penalizes offenders for committing serious or violent offenses by lengthening how much time they must spend behind bars. Say you received a conviction for a serious or violent crime, and that crime carried a two-year prison sentence. If you received another conviction for a serious or violent crime, you would have to spend twice the duration of your original sentence, or in this case, four years, in state prison.

After a third conviction for a serious or violent crime, you would become a third strike offender. You would also have to serve 25 years to life behind bars.

Options for fighting three-strikes offender status

Depending on circumstances surrounding your convictions, you may be able to fight your designation as a three-strikes offender. You may be able to do so by requesting to have one of your felony convictions reduced to a misdemeanor. Or, you may be able to ask a judge to remove one of your strikes through filing something called a Romero motion.

Romero motion considerations

In deciding whether to remove one of your strikes, a judge may consider whether you have experienced cruel and unusual punishment. A judge may also consider the nature of the offense and whether society has a vested interest in seeing you undergo prosecution. Your background, moral character and future prospects may also come into play before a judge makes a final decision.