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San Diego Three Strikes Defense Lawyer

California is one of 24 states that have adopted three-strikes laws, also known as “habitual offender” or “persistent offender” laws. The California three-strikes law mandate that courts impose harsh sentences on habitual offenders who are convicted of three or more serious crimes. If you have previously been convicted of two serious felonies (“strikes”), and if you are convicted of committing a third offense (possibly a misdemeanor), you may be sentenced to serve 25 years to life in prison.

If you are facing a third criminal charge under California’s three-strikes law, do not leave your future to chance. Contact an experienced and aggressive criminal defense lawyer who can help you avoid a lengthy prison sentence. Mary Frances Prévost represents people facing three-strikes charges in San Diego and the surrounding areas. For a free and confidential consultation about your case, call (888) 909-7896.

How does California’s three-strikes law work?

California’s three-strikes law is a sentencing scheme that applies to certain repeat offenders convicted of serious or violent felonies. It can add significant time to prison sentences, even when the third “strike” is a misdemeanor. It was enacted by a voter initiative in the 1990s, and has generated significant controversy since.

To understand how California’s three-strikes system works, it is important to understand what counts as a “strike” offense. A prior conviction counts as a strike if it was for a serious or violent felony as defined by California Penal § 1192.7(c) or California Penal Code § 667.

Some offenses may be “strike” offenses if they are committed in a certain way (e.g., the defendant personally used a firearm). Other crimes, like residential burglary and robbery, are serious crimes under California’s three-strikes law regardless of whether they are committed with violence or under particular circumstances.

It is important to understand that convictions for serious or violent offenses that occurred prior the the enactment of California’s the three-strikes law apply, but only if the current serious or violent felony offense is committed after enactment. This means that the current felony charge for which a three-strikes sentence may be imposed must have been committed after March 7, 1994.

There is no need for qualifying strikes to be brought and tried separately under California’s three-strikes law. A criminal defendant can accumulate more than one strike in a single court proceeding.

Under California’s three-strikes scheme, out-of-state convictions can count as “strikes” so long as they would have constituted qualifying “strike” prior convictions in California.

Serious Felonies

Serious felonies under California’s three-strikes law include:

  • Any felony punishable by death or imprisonment for life;
  • Attempt to commit a felony punishable by death or life imprisonment;
  • Attempted murder;
  • Murder or involuntary manslaughter;
  • Assault with intent to commit rape or robbery;
  • Assault with a deadly weapon or instrument on a peace officer;
  • Assault by a life prisoner on a non-inmate;
  • Assault with a deadly weapon by an inmate;
  • Any other felony in which the defendant personally inflicts great bodily injury on any person or personally uses a firearm;
  • Arson;
  • Mayhem;
  • Exploding a destructive device or any explosive with intent to injure;
  • Exploding a destructive device or any explosive causing great bodily injury or mayhem;
  • Exploding a destructive device or any explosive with intent to murder;
  • Burglary of an inhabited dwelling, house or trailer coach as defined by the Vehicle Code or inhabited portion of any other building;
  • Robbery or bank robbery;
  • Kidnapping;
  • Holding of a hostage by a person confined in a state prison;
  • Sodomy by force, violence, duress, menace or fear of immediate bodily injury on the victim or another person;
  • Oral copulation by force, violence, duress, menace or fear of immediate bodily injury on the victim or another person;
  • Lewd or lascivious act on a child under the age of 14 years;
  • Any felony in which the defendant personally used a dangerous or deadly weapon selling, furnishing, administering, giving or offering to sell, furnish administer or give to a minor, heroin, cocaine, phencyclidine (PCP), a methamphetamine-related drug, or a precursor of methamphetamine;
  • Any violation of subdivision (a) of Section 289 where the act is accomplished against the victim’s will by force, violence, duress, menace, or fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury on the victim or another person;
  • Grand theft involving a firearm;
  • Any attempt to commit a crime listed in this subdivision other than an assault; and
  • Continuous sexual abuse of a child.

Violent Felonies

Violent felonies under California’s three-strikes law include:

  • Attempted murder;
  • Murder or manslaughter;
  • Arson that causes great bodily injury;
  • Explosion with intent to commit murder;
  • Mayhem;
  • Rape by force, violence, duress, menace or fear of immediate bodily injury on the victim or another person;
  • Oral copulation by force, violence, duress, menace or fear of immediate bodily injury on the victim or another person;
  • Lewd act on a child;
  • Any felony punishable by death or life sentence;
  • Any felony resulting in great bodily injury or in which a firearm was used;
  • Robbery of an inhabited dwelling, vessel or trailer coach in which a deadly or dangerous weapon was used;
  • Penetration by a foreign object;
  • Out-of-state kidnapping transported to California; and
  • Continuous sexual abuse of a child.

Sentencing in Third “Strike” Cases

Previously, if a person was convicted of any felony and had two or more “strike” prior convictions, he or she would be sentenced to at least 25 years to life in California state prison. However, this is no longer the case. A third offense will trigger a 25-years-to-life prison sentence only if the third offense is also a “strike” offense listed above.

Even if the third offense is not a “strike” offense, a defendant will still face an enhanced sentence. Under the current three-strikes law, he or she will be sentenced to twice the normal sentence for the third offense.

Sentencing in Second “Strike” Cases

If a person is convicted of any felony offense and has one “strike” prior conviction, he or she will be sentenced to double the prison term for the current conviction.

Appealing a Three Strikes Sentence

If you are convicted and sentenced under California’s three-strikes system, you may be able to appeal your sentence to a higher court. Many appeals of California three-strikes case have succeeded, and defendants have had their sentences reduced or even vacated. One argument you may be able to make on appeal is that your sentence is so disproportionate to your crime or crimes that it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Certain people who are serving prison time for a three-strikes violation may petition to have their sentence reduced if their third “strike” was not a serious or violent felony.

San Diego Three Strikes Defense Lawyer

If you or a loved one is facing a harsh sentence under California’s three-strikes scheme, contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer right away. Mary Frances Prévost is dedicated to zealous representation of her clients, and can help you avoid the serious consequences of a second or third “strike” under California law.

Do not leave your future to chance. Call the Law Offices of Mary Frances Prévost at  (888) 909-7896 today.

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