Our legal system in the United States is always changing and evolving in an attempt to have the most just and fair system. In some cases, when changes are made, those affected by old policies have a chance to be resentenced with newer policies in mind. One great example of a time where we saw the evolution of a legal system is in the situation of California.
The California three strikes law was changed in 2012 so that people who were being sentenced for a third charge had to have committed a serious or violent felony in order for the three strikes law to apply. This was good news for many people who were convicted and sent to jail for 25 years to life because of their third nonviolent felony. These people can now be resentenced and in some cases set free.
Is the statement contained in the December 2013 issue of the American Bar Association journal. This statement relates to the fact that California has now begun to release prisoners after reforming the California Three Strikes Law.
The California Three Strikes Law which was passed in 1994 was advertised as a way to keep violent repeat offenders off the streets. The California Three Strikes Law doubled prison time for a second felony if there was a prior serious or violent felony as defined by state law. However, to qualify for the life sentence called for in the law, the third felony did not have to be serious or violent. Because of this, California courts began sentencing defendants to life for crimes like petty theft and drug possession.
Because of this law, second and third strikers made up roughly twenty-five percent of California’s prison population which caused a tremendous budget strain. Studies reflect that 3,000-3,500 of California’s current third-strikers under the California Three Strikes law are serving twenty-five years to life for non-serious felonies.
Accordingly, because of this, an overwhelming majority of Californians voted in 2012 for proposition 36, a new law that radically reformed the California Three Strikes Law. Under this new change to the California Three Strikes law, inmates who are already serving life sentences for non-violent, non-serious crimes can now file a post-conviction petition with the court asking for resentencing. Under the new law, inmates who have served up to nineteen years are eligible for resentencing which usually means release from prison.
If you, a family member or a client, are serving an extremely lengthy sentence because of the California Three Strikes Law and you want to look into getting the sentence reduced, contact NLPA at 11331 Grooms Road, Suite 1000, Cincinnati, Ohio 45242 or call our office at (513) 247-0082.
California Three Strikes Law Amended
Relief at last is available for many California defendants who are serving life sentences under the Three Strikes Law. Recently, California enacted Senate Bill 9 into law, whereby criminal defendants who were under age eighteen at the time of their crime and who were sentenced to life in prison without parole can ask the sentencing court to review their cases and consider permitting parole after serving twenty-five years in prison. Election Night 2012 provided another sentencing reform breakthrough in California with the passage of Proposition 36.
Proposition 36 serves to reform the draconian “Three Strikes” law. The California Three Strikes Law required judges to sentence third-time offenders who have committed two previous violent or serious felonies to twenty-five to life prison terms for the commission of any third felony, regardless of the severity of the third felony. Although twenty-four other states possess Three Strikes laws, only California’s law permitted the third strike to be for any type of felony. However, with the passage of Proposition 36, a life sentence can only be issued for a third felony when the third felony conviction is considered “serious or violent.” Offenders who were sentenced to life, despite the fact that their third felony was not serious or violent, can now seek sentence modification.
However, contrary to the rhetoric of those opposed to Proposition 36, the amended sentencing law will not lead to “property crimes going up all over the state, and in very short order.” The amended law continues to impose a life sentence penalty if the third strike conviction was for “certain non-serious, non-violent sex or drug offenses or involved firearm possession” and for third strike felonies that are “non-serious, non-violent third strike if prior convictions were for rape, murder, or child molestation.” Clearly, defendants deemed dangerous will not be loosed upon society.
In practical terms, the amended law will permit the approximately 3,000 convicted felons who were, as of November 2012 serving life terms under the Three Strikes law whose third strike conviction was for a nonviolent crime, to be eligible to petition the court for a reduced sentence. It has been estimated that these reduced sentences could save California, and its taxpayers, between $150 and $200 million per year.
If you would like to learn more about the Amended California Three Strikes Law and the legal services provided by NLPA, contact us today.