Beginning in 1993, states began to enact mandatory sentencing laws for repeat criminal offenders. These new laws came to be known as “three strikes laws,” because they applied when offenders committed their third offense. This law came into place in California in 1994 after the kidnapping and murder of 12 year old Polly Klaas. The killer turned out to be a violent criminal who was out on parole. Outraged, voters urged the passing of this law to ensure that no other violent criminals would be further punished and segregated from the community. By 2003 over half the states and the federal government had joined the movement.

The three- strikes laws basically enables harsher punishments for criminals who commit second and third serious and violent felony crimes. Simply put, a prior conviction counts as a strike if it was for a serious or violent felony.

However, not everyone is a fan of this law. It was an argument that the sentences given were too harsh for offenders whose third offense was a non-violent crime. It also was an argument that this law raised correctional costs because citizens were paying for offenders whose third offense was a crime like petty theft or drug possession. Nevertheless, the U.S. Supreme Court has upheld three strikes laws.

Fortunately, on November 6, 2012, the people voted to pass Proposition 36; a reformation of the previous three-strikes law. The passing of Proposition 36 dismissed the rule that stated that offenders being convicted of non-violent crimes be automatically be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. Even more, California inmates who are serving time on a third strike may petition to have their sentences reduced if their third strike was not a serious one.

Here are the new standards for this law:


  • You are ineligible for probation
  • Your sentence is automatically doubled
  • You must do 80-85 % of term you were sentenced to (Normally, someone is entitled to credit towards their term…allowing them to only serve 50% of the term)


  • You are ineligible for probation
  • No custody credits
  • Automatic 25 years to life in prison only if you’ve committed a serious or violent felony (with the exception of some non-violent or less serious crimes , listed in the California Penal Code). Offenders who do not fall under this category will be treated as if they have committed a second strike offense. They will still be sentenced to twice the normal sentence for the crime they committed

Now that the Three Strikes Law has changed, it’s important to fight any charge that could result in conviction for a serious or violent felony. Those convictions can counts as strikes in the future and ultimately lead to future consequences down the road

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