For over two decades, California’s criminal justice system has used the Three Strikes Law to extend the sentencing of defendants. Despite multiple debates and arguments against habitual offense laws, this law is commonplace in criminal trials and can easily impact your future if an Orange County court convicts you of a serious or violent felony.
What is the Three Strikes Law?
Enacted in 1994 by California voters, the “Three Strikes and You’re Out” Law is a part of Penal Code Section 667, which outlines enhancements for defendants convicted on felony charges. Simply put, each violent or serious felony charge results in a “strike” against a defendant’s criminal record. If that defendant receives three strikes on their record, they can face a mandatory sentence of a minimum of 25 years to life in a California state prison.
The Three Strikes Law is an extremely harsh law that does not take into account the time between convictions, the nature of each crime, or your unique situation. You will also face further restrictions on parole if charged with a Three Strikes’ sentence. The California Supreme Court has determined that each case must be treated as a single strike, however, providing some clarification for how the law should be interpreted, but the law is generally very harsh for defendants. While this law is complex, there are methods a skilled criminal defense attorney can employ to defend against a Three Strikes’ sentence.
Exceptions to the Rule
Any trial involving a serious or violent felony in California faces the possibility of ending with a strike, but that is only if the defendant is found guilty. If your attorney can have the case dismissed or achieve a verdict of not-guilty, then the strike can be avoided altogether. Alternatively, your attorney may show that your third charge does not meet the requirements of a violent or serious felony and that the law does not apply to your case.
In addition, a district attorney can dismiss a strike if they feel it would be too difficult to pursue a Three Strikes’ sentencing or that the punishment does not fit the crime. However, you should not rely on the mercy of the court to decide your fate. Instead, you should not hesitate to contact an attorney who is willing to advocate before a judge for a lesser sentencing and employ every method at their disposal.
One of the most important legal tools is the Romero Motion. If you are facing a Three Strikes’ Sentencing, you may petition a judge to review all factors in your case, from a history of good behavior to the severity of each charge you received a strike for. The judge may excuse or dismiss the strike if your attorney can successfully demonstrate that the punishment is too extensive.
Depending on the circumstances of the trial, you may be able to request an appeal. Appealing a Three Strikes’ Sentencing requires your attorney to argue that the serious or violent felony you were charged with was disproportionate to the 25-year minimum sentencing. Your attorney may do this by outlining a large time gap between strikes and showing that the current statutes of the Three Strikes Law do not apply to your previous charges and the strikes should be dismissed.
Dismissing a Strike
In order for a defendant to receive a Three Strikes’ Sentencing, the prosecution must prove all three strikes apply. Because the burden of proof is on the prosecution, your attorney may counter their claims and prove that a strike is unwarranted, such as by arguing that the crime you were charged with was not a serious or violent felony, or providing new evidence that shows your innocence in a previous case. Prop 36 also outlines that the third strike must be a violent or serious felony to justify a Three Strikes’ Sentencing, meaning that the third strike should not apply for misdemeanors or non-violent felonies.
Building a Defense Case
If you are charged with a violent or serious felony in an Orange County court, then you need experienced and knowledgeable legal representation to avoid an extensive prison sentence. To secure the best defense available, contact the Law Office of Michael L. Guisti by calling (714) 530-9690 or toll-free at (888) 478-8999. Our lead Orange county criminal defense attorney has successfully defended multiple clients facing felony charges through negotiations with the DA, convincing the court of a lighter sentencing, or achieving a not-guilty verdict. Do not leave your fate in the hands of the court; contact him today.