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California three strikes law affects second strike sentencing

Posted on in Criminal Defense

The California three strikes law actually increases a person's exposure to significant prison time before the third strike. The number of people crowding California prisons has received a high level of scrutiny since the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the state to reduce the overcrowding of our state prisons.

Most Californians know the three strikes law allows prosecutors to seek a mandatory 25-year-to-life sentence in allegedly qualifying cases. Currently, roughly 8,700 are serving prison time on a third strike under the law. However, 32,390 people are serving increased sentences under the second strike provision of the law. Second strike prisoners account for nearly 20 percent of the state's prison population.

The provision under the three strikes law related to second strikers allows prosecutors to seek double the prison time for a second strike conviction. Barry Krisberg, a researcher at UC Berkeley's institute on law and social policy says the significance of the second strike provision "is having an enormous impact on our prison population, and many second strikers are serving more time than third strikers, but when people talk about the policy of reforming three strikes, nobody wants to touch the second strike."

Like the third strike, a person may be eligible for a second strike if the person has a prior conviction for a serious or violent felony on their record. The second strike offense does not need to be serious or violent. Individuals serving a sentence on a second or third strike also do not earn "good-time" credits as rapidly as other inmates.

Individuals sentenced under the three strikes law have to serve at least 85 percent of the sentence imposed before becoming eligible for parole. The issue is even worse if sentencing enhancements are tacked on for things like allegations of using a gun at the time of an offense.

It is important for Santa Cruz area residents to consult with a seasoned criminal defense attorney when facing any type of criminal allegations. The harsh three strikes law in the state highlights the greater importance of seeking legal advice at each step in cases that may involve the three strikes law, even at the potential first strike stage.

Source: Monterey Herald, "Two-strike offenders fill prisons," Marisa Lagos August 1, 2011

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