One of the most notorious aspects of the California criminal code is the “Three Strikes Law.” While most people are aware that the law can mean life imprisonment if someone is convicted of three crimes, there are still a lot of details about the law that the average person is unaware of, including even basic details like what crimes can be used as a strike. If you are accused of a crime, it is very important you ask your Vista criminal lawyer if it will count as a strike on your record.
What is a Strike?
Under the three strikes law, anyone who has already been convicted of two serious or violent felonies can face life imprisonment if they are charged with committing a third felony that is also of a violent or serious nature. This leaves people with a lot of questions about what is considered a strike and about exceptions where the crime doesn’t need to be violent or serious.
A serious or violent felony may sound like something left up to a judge’s discretion, but California has specifically defined what crimes meet this definition for the purpose of a strike. This may include, among other things, kidnapping, murder, battery with serious bodily injury, robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, terrorist threats, and high-level sex crimes such as rape or child molestation. If a crime is not violent or serious, but a gang enhancement has been added to the charge, it may also count as a strike. This can even include seemingly minor crimes such as vandalism. Residential burglary, and felony DUI with Great Bodily Injury (GBI) are among the most common prior strikes.
While strikes can arise from juvenile crimes, this will only happen if you were 16 or older at the time the crime took place. Attempted crimes such as attempted robbery still can count as strikes as well.
As for the third strike, it also must be a serious or violent felony like the other strikes -unless either of the first two strikes were for a felony that involved the use of a firearm or rape, murder or child molestation.
Consequences of Two Strikes
While most people are aware that the third strike under this law carries an automatic third strike, it’s also worth knowing that having even one prior strike means you will have your sentence doubled for your second strike. You will also have to serve at least 80% of the sentence before you can receive parole.
You Can Fight Strikes
If you were previously convicted for an offense that would be a strike in California, this could count as a strike against you if you are charged with a strikable offense in California, but your three strikes lawyer in Vista may help you fight the use of the out-of-state conviction as a strike. It’s also worth knowing that multiple strikes can come from a single offense, but a good attorney may be able to negotiate a plea bargain that ensures you only end up with one strike on your record.
While you cannot get strikes removed from your record after a conviction, you can have the strike ignored for the purpose of sentencing if you are charged with another crime. This is known as “striking a strike” and requires a highly experienced Vista violent crimes attorney. The strike will still count against you though if you are charged with a crime in the future.
If you are concerned about the impact the three strikes law may have on you, please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation with experienced Vista violent crime defense lawyer Peter M. Liss.
Creative Commons Image by Tim Pearce, Los Gatos