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California's Three Strikes Law

If you’re like a lot of people, you’ve probably heard about California’s 3-Strikes and You’re Out Law, which went into effect in 1994. The purpose of this law was to impose a serious punishment on defendants who were previously convicted of one or more serious or violent felonies. These “serious” or “violent” felonies are referred to as “strikes” or as a “srike” prior.

“What is the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony?” For starters, misdemeanors are less serious than felonies. Secondly, felonies are punishable by a state prison sentence, not a county jail sentence. Examples of California felonies include:

Under the 3-Strikes Law, whenever a defendant had a conviction for a serious or violent felony and he or she committed a new felony, regardless of how minor the offense, he or should would be punished under the 3-Strikes Law. Violent and serious felonies are defined under Sections 667.5(c) and 1192.7(c) of the Penal Code.

Some of the serious and violent felonies that count as a strike prior include but are not limited to: rape, child molestation, arson, kidnapping, residential burglary, robbery, certain weapons offenses, offenses involving explosives, offenses involving serious bodily injury and attempts to commit the above offenses.

What if I Have a Strike Prior?

Generally, if a defendant is convicted of any new felony and he or she has one strike on their record (such defendants are called second strikers), they have to go to prison. They cannot be placed on probation or go to rehab. If the defendant has two or more strike priors, they face a minimum of 25 years in prison; they cannot earn time off for working or for being a model prisoner.

“Can a judge dismiss a strike prior?” It is possible; usually a judge will dismiss a prior only when the prior strike is old or when the new strike is minor and the defendant does not have a history of violent offenses. It is extremely rare for a sentencing judge to be lenient when the new offense is violent or serious in nature.

Do you have a felony on your record and now you’re facing felony charges for a new offense? If so, contact our Orange County criminal defense firm for a hard-hitting defense.