Violent Crimes and the Three-Strikes Law
The California "Three Srikes Law and You're Out" law was passed in 1994. The law was enacted to increase sentences of persons who were convicted of violent crimes and serious felonies known as "strike priors." These include but are not limited to murder, robbery (with a deadly weapon) of a residence, and rape.
Sentencing in Third Strike Cases
Under California's three strikes law, if you are convicted of any felony, and have two or more strike priors, you must be sentenced to at least 25-years-to-life in state prison. The two strike priors need not be close in time for the final or "third strike" to apply.
Sentencing in Second Strike Cases
If you are convicted of any felony and have one "strike" prior, you must be sentenced to double the prison term on the current conviction. Here, too, the strike prior and the latest offense need not be close in time for the "second strike" to apply.
The Prosecution's Burden of Proof
A defendant is presumed innocent of the "strike allegations" unless and until the prosecutor proves these allegations beyond a reasonable doubt. If the accused is convicted of the new offense, the jury would have to decide if the strike allegations are true. If the jury so decides, then the three-strikes law applies.
For example, assume that you were tried and found guilty of aggravated assault. The prosecutor contends that you suffered a prior "strike" conviction for discharging a firearm with gross negligence under California Penal Code Section 246.3. For PC 246.3 to constitute a strike prior, the prosecutor must prove that you personally used a firearm in the prior offense. If the jury decides the prosecutor has met his burden of proof with respect to this specific allegation, then your previous conviction under PC 246.3 will serve to double your prison sentence for your current conviction.
How can you fight a three-strikes case
There are three ways in which your attorney can fight your three-strikes case: 1) Launch a successful defense to the underlying criminal charge 2) Have a strike felony "wobbler" reduced to a misdemeanor, and/or 3) pursuant to a Romero Motion, persuade the district attorney or the judge to "strike" the prior strike in furtherance of justice. In deciding a Romero Motion, the court will consider the nature of the current charge, how long ago the prior strikes occurred, the underlying facts of the strike priors, and the defendant's overall criminal history.