California’s three strikes law provides enhanced sentences for repeat offenders. Certain felonies are considered “strikes.” A conviction for a second strike will result in a double sentence while a third strike may result in a life sentence. With the passage of Proposition 36 in 2012, the three strikes law has changed considerably since its introduction in 1994. While the law has become less harsh on non-violent offenders, its most controversial aspect remains in place: a person can collect two or three strikes from a single criminal incident. If you are facing criminal charges, an experienced San Diego criminal defense lawyer will be able to protect your rights.

When Is an Offense Considered as a Strike?

A strike is a violent or serious felony, as defined in sections 667.5 and 1192.7 of the California Penal Code. Some of these serious or violent felonies include:

What Are the Consequences of Having One Strike?

If you have a conviction for a serious or violent felony, this will count as a strike against you if you get convicted of a felony in the future. Even if the second felony you commit isn’t violent or serious, you’ll still face harsh penalties:

  • A prison sentence of twice the length as what is otherwise prescribed for that offense
  • The obligation of serving no less than 80% of the sentence (non-strike prisoners often serve only one third to a half of their sentence for good behavior)

What Happens if I Have Two Strikes?

If you have two prior convictions for serious or violent felonies, you will receive a 25 year to life sentence if the third conviction is for:

  • A serious or violent felony
  • A non-serious or non-violent offense that involve sex, drugs, or firearms

If your first or second convictions were for crimes such as rape, murder, or child molestation, you may face a 25 year to life sentence upon your third felony conviction even if it is a non-serious or non-violent felony.

Can I Avoid the Three Strikes Law?

In California, judges have the discretion to ignore one or more previous strikes if they find that the application of the three strikes law in your case would be unnecessarily harsh. The court can decide to do this on its own, or your lawyer can file a motion making such a request. Bear in mind, however, that the prosecutors may appeal the court’s decision to ignore your prior strikes—this decision may end up being reviewed by California’s superior or supreme courts.

In general, a judge will ignore prior strikes only if they happened a long time ago, or if the new conviction is minor and the offender has a non-violent history. If your new conviction is for a serious or violent felony, it is highly unlikely that a judge will dismiss any prior strikes.

How a San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyer at McElfresh Law Can Help

At McElfresh Law, we have built a reputation for helping our clients successfully navigate California’s criminal justice system. Under the three strikes law, getting convicted for a serious or violent felony can have harsh consequences down the road. For this reason, it’s essential to fight every single felony charge made against you. When a victory at trial seems unlikely, it may be possible to plead guilty to a lesser offense that won’t count as a strike. If you’re facing felony charges and want to speak with a skilled and experienced San Diego criminal attorney, call us today at (858) 756-7107 for a free and confidential consultation of your case.

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