Under California Three Strikes law, a person with certain prior convictions, or strikes, will be sentenced more severely. If a person has one prior "strike" the Judge is required to send them to prison for double the normal term. The Judge cannot put the person on probation. If the person has two or more prior "strikes" the term of imprisonment is 25 years to life in prison. A person who has two prior strikes who commits a minor felony like drug possession or theft over $400 will be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. A person sentenced to 25 years to life is not eligible for parole for over 23 years and that is only the possibility of parole. A sentence of 25 years to life means what it says: a person can spend the rest of their life in prison.
If you or someone you care about has been charged with a felony, and has a prior criminal record, it is critical to consult with a skilled criminal defense attorney right away.
Why hire The Law Office of Joshua Webb?
I am an expert in the Three Strikes Law. In the 10 years I spent in the District Attorney's office, I studied the Three Strikes law and prosecuted many people using it. I know where district attorneys will have problems proving the prior conviction or problems proving that the prior conviction is a "strike". I know these prosecution weaknesses because I faced these problems many times as a prosecutor.
In the years I have been defending the rights of my clients I have successfully had the "strike" allegations dismissed in many cases. Convincing the Judge to dismiss the "strike" in some cases means the difference between spending the rest of your life in prison versus three years in prison. It can mean the difference between going to prison for four years versus probation and no prison. In other words, it means a world of difference for my clients.
You need an experienced attorney to handle the intricate and technical issues that arise in Three Strikes cases.
Sentencing under Three Strikes
A defendant who commits any felony and who has two or more "strike" priors must be sentenced to at least 25-years-to-life in State Prison.
A defendant who commits any felony with one "strike" prior must be sentenced to a doubled term on the current felony. It is a mandatory state prison sentence. Unless the Judge or the DA's Office deletes the prior conviction, the Judge cannot put you on probation.
The current felony does not have to be a serious or violent felony. It is where the prior convictions are serious or violent felonies that the 3-Strikes law comes into effect. The current felony can be anything: vandalism, theft, embezzlement, drugs, or assault.
Also unique in 3-Strikes cases is the reduction in good behavior credits. A defendant who commits a felony with one strike prior must serve at least 80% of their sentence in prison; good behavior credits cannot exceed one-fifth of the total prison term. The difference is significant. On a four year sentence a defendant would only serve two years and then be released on parole. A defendant sentenced to four years because of "strike" prior will serve three years, five months before being released on parole.
If the current felony is also a "strike" the good behavior credits are reduced further to 15%. Additionally, a five year term would is added on top of the doubled "strike" sentence.
What is a Strike?
A strike is a prior conviction of a serious or violent felony. A list of the crimes that are considered "serious" felonies are listed in Penal Code Section 1192.7 (c), while violent felonies are listed at Penal Code Section 667.5(c).
The 3-Strikes law went into effect on March 7, 1994. This means that the current felony must have occurred after the effective date to trigger 3-Strikes sentencing. However, the prior strike convictions could have occurred at any time. This means that priors from before March 7, 1994 count as strikes, even though the 3-Strikes law had not been implemented yet.
My Strategy in all Three Strikes Cases
My strategy is very simple and straight forward. I first petition the District Attorney's office to dismiss the "strike" allegation. I write a letter to the DA's Office requesting the dismissal. The California Supreme Court case of People v. Romero sets forth all of the factors to use when deciding to dismiss a "strike." I write a detailed letter about my client's life and when it would be in the interests of justice to dismiss the "strike." I usually attach letters of support and other information to support the request.
If the District Attorney refuses to dismiss the strike, then I file a formal motion in court requesting the Judge to dismiss the "strike" allegation. The formal motion is similar in content to the letter. This motion is known as a Romero Motion. All Judges have been given the power to dismiss the "strike" allegation and I request that they use that power.
In a situation where the DA and Judge refuse to dismiss the "strike" then I will try to show that the prior conviction is not a serious or violent felony. To some people, including attorneys, the law may seem very cut and dry. I don't believe so. On certain convictions it is not clear if the defendant "personally used" a deadly weapon. Below I have listed some issues that I have identified in Three-Strikes cases that can possibly lead to the dismissal of a ?strike? allegation:
- The defendant did not personally use a firearm in the prior conviction (but rather a co-defendant did).
- The conviction was for assault by means of force likely to cause great bodily injury (PC 245(a)) not assault with a deadly weapon (PC 245(a)).
- The defendant did not personally inflict great bodily injury in the prior case (but rather a co-defendant did). Additionally, if the injury was to an accomplice you can get convicted of personally inflicting great bodily injury, but it is not a "strike"
- Certain gang allegations trigger the Three-Strikes law but others do not. It is important to understand the law regarding gang crimes.
- When the DA uses foreign (convictions from another state) priors the elements of the foreign priors must be the same as the California crime. When the elements are not the same then the foreign conviction cannot be used by California as a strike.
- Discharge of a firearm, in certain circumstances is a "strike" but is not in others. For instance, discharge of a firearm at an residence is a "strike" but negligent discharge of a firearm is not a "strike."
There are hundreds of other issues that I always look for when I am analyzing a "strike" case. If you or a loved one has been charged with a felony and are facing a Three-Strike allegation, please contact The Law Office of Joshua Webb today. I would be happy to sit down with you and discuss the issues involved with your case. It is crucial to have an attorney who knows all of the details of the Three Strikes law. I know that I can help you with your case.