Three Strikes Law

Facing Felony Charges In California: Will it be a Strike?

The Three Strikes law, which voters passed by initiative (Proposition 184) in 1994, is one of the most heinous laws in California.  Most people understand the three strikes law as mandating life in prison for defendants who have convicted three serious of violent felonies.  But in practice, the law is much more severe than that, and as a result a very large percentage of California prisoners are serving 25 years to life for non-violent felonies and felonies that would otherwise result in only a few years in prison.  California’s three strikes law includes the following sweeping provisions:

  • A defendant who commits any felony and has two or more strike priors on his or her record must be sentenced to a minimum of 25 years to life in state prison for the current felony. Pen C §667(e)(2).
  • A defendant who commits any felony with one strike prior must be sentenced to twice the base term of the current felony. Pen C §667(e)(1).
  • A defendant who commits any felony with one strike prior must serve at least 80 percent of the sentence in prison—the defendant’s good-time or work-time while in prison cannot exceed one-fifth of the total term in prison. Pen C §667(c)(5).
  • A defendant who commits a felony with two or more strike priors gets no good-time/work-time credits while in prison towards his or her 25-years-to-life sentence. In re Cervera (2001) 24 C4 1073.
  • Any felony can count as a third strike.  In some situations, a defendant can avoid a prison sentence even with strike priors, therefore, it is always in your interest to retained skilled legal counsel.  Skilled legal counsel can be especially helpful in situations where the defendant is charged with a “wobbler” (a crime that is punishable as either a felony or a misdemeanor, such as receiving stolen property or possession of methamphetamine) or charged with a felony for a minor drug offense.
  • Strike priors (felonies counted as strikes one and two) are more limited.  Because only certain convictions count against a person in the three strikes context, it is all the more important to have excellent legal counsel when first facing felony charges.  A skilled and competent attorney may be able to get the charges against you reduced substantially.  Convictions listed as serious or violent convictions count as “priorable.”  Check our Priorable charges in California page for a list of current categories which count as strikes

In sum, it is in your interest to retain a skilled criminal defense attorney, especially when facing felony charges.  Attorney Thomas Greenberg can help you.  Call 650-242-0021 for a free consultation.