Offenders who receive a conviction under California’s Three Strikes Law may be subject to extended prison sentences. Courts double the prison term establishing by state sentencing guidelines when a person receives a second felony offense after a past felony for violence or serious criminal behavior. A third felony carries 25 years to life in prison.
Review the factors that influence whether the Three Strikes Law impacts a California case.
Defining serious or violent felony
The Three Strikes Law may apply to a second or third felony when the first felony involved:
- Burglary or robbery, particularly in a residential setting
- Sexual crimes
- Serious bodily assault or murder
- Weapons-related offenses
- Offenses involving explosives
Attempting to commit any of these offenses can also result in a Three Strikes felony.
Understanding how strikes work
California considers all felonies strikes after one serious or violent felony conviction. For a second strike, not only will the state double the person’s sentence but the court will also require him or her to serve 80% of the designated time for good behavior and work credit rather than 50% for other felonies. Third-strike offenders lose eligibility for parole until they serve at least the minimum sentence.
The Three Strikes Law provides sentencing guidelines, but the judge retains the final decision about legal penalties. For example, an offender can qualify for dismissal of a strike for non-violent convictions.
Opponents of the Three Strikes Law in California and other states report that most people who receive this type of sentence are Black, have a mental illness, have not committed a violent crime or committed drug-related crimes only.