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Challenging the Three Strikes Law

Posted by Christopher Martens | May 06, 2015 | 0 Comments

The Three Strikes Law is perhaps one of the most well known and talked about laws. The Three Strikes Law dictates that with three "strikes" against your criminal record, with strikes being considered as serious felony convictions, you may face a prison sentence of 25 years to life. Similarly, under the Three Strikes Law, a defendant with one prior serious felony on their record may face a doubled sentence if convicted of a second felony. For example, if their crime normally called for a sentence of three years, if they had a prior felony conviction, could face a sentence of six years for that same crime. The Three Strikes Law punishes criminal recidivism harshly with increased sentencing for repeat offenders and for those who habitually commit felonies. This law has been highly controversial. For some habitual recidivists of violent crimes, it may be what is best for public safety but certainly allows little room for rehabilitation back in to society. It also stands to greatly discriminate against those who have been charged with multiple felonies for one crime. Theoretically, under the Three Strikes Law, if someone's first crime resulted in two felony convictions, their second crime committed could result in them serving a life sentence, regardless of the crime committed. Many have found this unfair and have challenged the harsh sentencing procedures of the Three Strikes Law when it applies to defendants who were convicted of two felonies for only one prior crime. These challenges have been successful and have resulted in dramatically lessened sentences in certain cases. Pursuant to People v. Superior Court (Romero) (1996) 13 Cal.4th 497, a superior court has the authority to strike one previous felony on a defendant's criminal record if they stand to face a 25 years to life sentence under the Three Strikes Law. However, for a felony conviction to be struck from a defendant's record for the purposes of sentencing, the two prior felonies must have resulted from one criminal act, as opposed to two separate instances. In light of this fact, one of the prior felony convictions may be struck, thus saving the defendant the harsh sentence that they would have been given with under the Three Strikes Law. Of course, striking a prior felony in this scenario is up to the court's discretion but from a unanimous decision in People v. Vargas (2014) 59 Cal.4th 635, 640-649 (Vargas), the California Supreme Court ruled that counting two prior offenses from the same criminal act was not congruent with the intent of the Three Strikes Law, which is meant to apply to those who have committed three separate serious felonies. Needless to say, as a criminal defense attorney with trial experience, I've seen first hand how the Three Strikes Law can be misapplied and can unjustly put good people behind bars for life. Recently, I served as a criminal defense trial attorney for a man who was facing a serious sentence of 50 years to life for a third felony conviction. My client, Mr. Juan Jaimes, was facing severe sentencing under the Three Strikes Law. However, his first two felony convictions occurred while he was a minor and as a result of one criminal act. I served as Mr. Jaimes' trial attorney through the Kings County Superior Court wherein I made what is called a "Romero" motion to have one of Mr. Jaimes' prior offenses dismissed, pursuant to People v. Superior Court (Romero) (1996) 13 Cal.4th 497. I was able to evaluate Mr. Jaimes' case and based off of the circumstances and facts regarding his first two prior felonies, filed a motion to have one prior offense dismissed. I demonstrated to the court that in accordance with Romero, counting two felony strikes against Mr. Jaimes' record was incongruent with the intent of the Three Strikes law. As a result of this motion, Mr. Jaimes' appeal was granted by the 5th Court of Appeals and his sentence of 50 years to life was vacated. He now faces a resentencing by a Kings County Superior Court judge however, his maximum sentence is now only eight years. In this case, the Three Strikes Law was successfully challenged and my client was able to avoid a life sentence.

If you or a loved one has recently been arrested and are facing your third felony conviction, call experienced criminal defense attorney Christopher Martens today for expert counsel. At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, we can listen to your story and help you prepare a strategic defense to ensure you the best possible outcome for your case. Contact our offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss a possible plan of action for your case.

About the Author

Christopher Martens

Bio Visalia and Bakersfield criminal defense attorney who has dedicated his life to helping those who have been accused of crimes or injured due to the negligence of others.


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