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Prop 36 – Three Strikes Law Changed Significantly

On November 6, 2012 the California voters passed Proposition 36 which changes California’s three strikes law.  The voters approved this change by a wide margin – with 68 percent in favor of the change.

Changes to California’s Three Strikes Law

  1. New law revises three strikes law to impose life sentence only when the new felony conviction is serious or violent.
  2. Continues to impose life sentence if third strike conviction was for certain non-serious, non-violent sex or drug offense or involved firearm possession.
  3. Maintains life sentence for felons with non-serious, non-violent third strike if prior convictions were for rape, murder or child molestation.
  4. Authorizes re-sentencing for offenders currently serving life sentences if third strike conviction was not serious or violent and judge determines sentences does not pose unreasonable risk to public safety.

In the past a person with two prior serious or violent felonies (strikes) could receive a 25 to life prison sentence if they are convicted of any felony – the current felony did not have to be serious or violent.  In many cases defendant’s received 25 to life sentences for committing offenses such as theft or drug possession.  As a result, California currently has 8,800 inmates serving 25 to life sentences. 3,000 of these cases involve current offenses which are not serious or violent – and therefore can potentially be drastically reduced.

The voters approved a change to the law which limits the 25 to life sentences to offenders who are convicted of a current felony that is serious or violent (with a few exceptions – such as when the defendant has a prior conviction for rape, murder or child molestation).  If the current offense is not serious or violent (and none of the exceptions applies) the court can now impose a sentence of twice the normal term for the crime.

Defendants Serving 25 to Life Sentences

The change in the law allows defendants who are currently serving 25 to life sentences (or longer) who were sentenced under the old three strikes law to ask to be resentenced under the new version of the law.  The defendants have two years to make this request.

Resentencing Judge Has Discretion

If you have a family member or loved one that is currently serving a 25 to life sentence (or longer) three strikes sentence this is very, very good news.  However, be aware the law includes a provision that allows the resentencing judge to apply his or her discretion and to deny the reduction in the sentence if the court finds “that resentencing the [defendant] would pose an unreasonable risk of danger to public safety”.

Therefore, the resentencing hearing should be approached with substantial preparation and readiness to present evidence in support of appropriateness of the resentencing.

If you need help with this feel free to contact Dan Koukol.  If you have read the balance of this web site you are aware he is particularly well suited to handle these matters.

Dan Koukol