The California Three Strikes law was imposed in an effort to curb the rate of crimes perpetrated by repeat offenders. In practice, however, it often led to people being severely sentenced for crimes that are usually relatively minor. For example, people whose first two strikes were convictions for felony offenses, such as domestic violence or rape, were subsequently sentenced with more intense punishments for seemingly less serious third strike crimes such as theft or drug possession. The law was originally passed hoping to curb recidivism rates, but may have played a role in raising them, resulting in higher costs for both state and federal facilities without actually curbing the rate of offenses.
History and Future of Three Strikes
It was about a decade and a half ago that the first questions were raised as to the effectiveness of the law and such procedures, but it was not until late last year that a reform of the Three Strikes law was brought to the table in California. The law was first passed in 1994. In the years that followed, analysts found that a reimagining of the policy would ultimately save the state of California several hundred million dollars a year. Now, efforts are underway to bring the law may to voters for reconsideration on the November 2016 ballot.
There are many reasons that advocates argue that the law should be reconsidered. One is that state laws already consider repeat offenders at a different level. This is laid out in the 1987 Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which requires minimum mandatory sentencing laws for repeat offenders. In many instances, the Three Strikes law only means that the repeat offender may be unduly punished. There is also the argument that because the vast majority of violent crimes are so-called “crimes of passion,” the consideration of additional jail time or fines will not deter the person from committing them. There is also an argument to be made that the law actually takes away the power of many legal professionals—particularly judges—who have been educated and trained to make the best choice for society in any given case.
If you have been affected by the Three Strikes law, it is not too late to change your circumstances. The most important first step is to seek legal counsel. Contact an experienced San Jose County criminal defense attorney today.