Can the Unfairness in the Three Strikes Law Be Fixed?
No where was this epitomized better than when a “two striker” stole a single piece of pizza and received life in prison under the law. Indeed, California’s Three Strikes sentencing law, found in Penal Code § 667(b) to (j) and § 1170.12, and the case law interpreting it, have held that “petty theft with a prior” conviction under Penal Code § 666 is a felony subject to sentencing under the Three Strikes law.Brief Synopsis: AB327, an amendment to California’s Three Strikes Sentencing law, did become law in late 2014. It only changes sentencing on a conviction that would be a third strike by limiting what is a third strike to offenses that are serious or violent felonies only.
If defendant has two or more prior convictions that qualify as strikes, defendant must receive an indeterminate life sentence to state prison, which means a minimum term of twenty-five years to life in state prison.
It merits mention that juvenile convictions, if for specific crimes committed when defendant is sixteen or older, also qualify for strikes (most commonly if under Welfare and Institutions Code § 707(b)) and subject the defendant to sentencing under the Three Strikes law. Also, convictions from outside California, including juvenile convictions, also qualify as strikes if the crime would be a strike under California law.
Assembly Bill 327 (AB 327) seeks to correct this “one size fits all” issue. The bill provides that a defendant who has two or more serious or violent felony convictions (strikes) would receive the indeterminate life sentence only if the defendant’s current conviction is for a specified serious or violent felony. The pizza thief would be spared a life sentence.
Between now and then, it is anticipated that the debate will increase as to whether AB 327 is fair to victims of the prior offenses and whether it only serves to enable career criminals. Included in any discussion of strike offenses, there will certainly be debate about how such a provision will affect plea bargain on a judge’s ruling on a Romero motion (People v. Romero (1996) 13 Cal.4th 497, 504) to “strike a strike” for purposes of sentencing for any particular person also potentially affected by AB 327.
For more information about sentencing issues with strikes, click on the following articles:
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