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Understanding the three strikes law

| Feb 13, 2021 | Criminal Defense |

The three-strikes law in California doles out enhanced penalties for convicted felons. The law has undergone some changes since its creation in 1994, but the foundational elements remain.

A person facing a second felony conviction may want a better understanding of the three-strikes law. Armed with this knowledge, a defendant may make more informed decisions about proceeding with a case.

The purpose of the law

California enacted the three strikes law to create a progressive sentencing structure for repeat felony offenders. The law’s purpose is to dissuade those convicted of a crime from re-offending by making lengthier mandatory sentences for subsequent convictions.

The penalties for strikes

Having a conviction for a felony, violent or not, puts a person in line to face automatic sentences with subsequent felony convictions. A second conviction results in a penalty that doubles the standard sentence for that crime. Convictions that carry a possible sentence of five years will automatically become 10 years for a second strike. A third conviction or strike yields an automatic 25-year sentence.

The chances of early release

A person serving a sentence in prison may become eligible for early release. This earned through something called custody credits. These allow a person who stays out of trouble to earn an early release after doing half of the time indicated in the sentence. However, those in prison under a second or third strike may not have this same privilege. Most must wait to serve out at least 80% of their sentence. Those convicted of violent offenses must complete at least 85%.

The three-strikes law is not infallible, but it may make for a longer sentence. Understanding more about how it works may assist in mounting a defense against subsequent charges.