How Can You Avoid a Life Sentence in a Third Strike Case?

Posted by Ronald D. HeddingJul 11, 2022

The California “three-strikes” law under Penal Code 667 PC is a sentencing enhancement where a defendant will receive a prison sentence of 25 years to life if convicted of three serious or violent felony crimes.

How Can You Avoid a Life Sentence in a Third Strike Case?

This statute also doubles the sentence for defendants convicted of any felony when they have a prior violent or other serious felonies. The law is clear that two qualifying felonies typically mean a double sentence and three qualifying felonies a life or twenty-five-year sentence, with certain exceptions.

The three-strikes law has been around since the early 1990s.  Unfortunately, many people have been imprisoned for a long time because this law is no joke. 

They're looking back to see what your criminal record looks like. If you have serious or violent felonies and pick up a new grave or violent felony, you can bet your bottom dollar that prosecutors will be looking to put you away for 25 to life.

You could challenge a sentence under the three-strikes law by asking a judge to remove a prior strike using a Romero motion or attempt to get your felony charge reduced to a misdemeanor. Our California criminal defense attorneys will examine the law more closely below.

What Crimes Are Considered a “Strike” Under the Three-Strikes Law?

A “strike” under the three-strikes law is a conviction for a violent felony crime under Penal Code 667.5 PC or a serious felony crime under Penal Code 1192.7 PC, including the following:

  • Penal Code 187 PC – murder,
  • Penal Code 297 PC – kidnapping,
  • Penal Code 664/187 PC - attempted murder,
  • Penal Code 192(a) PC - voluntary manslaughter,
  • Penal Code 215 PC – carjacking,
  • Penal Code 203 PC – mayhem,
  • Penal Code 261 PC - rape,
  • Penal Code 286 PC – sodomy
  • Penal Code 287 PC - oral copulation by force,
  • Penal Code 288 PC - lewd acts on a child under 14,
  • Penal Code 451 PC – arson,
  • any felony punishable by death or life in prison;
  • any felony involving a great bodily injury;
  • any felony involving a firearm or dangerous weapon;
  • assault with intent to commit rape;
  • assault with a deadly weapon or instrument on a peace officer;
  • first-degree burglary,
  • robbery and bank robbery;
  • some felony drug crimes involving heroin and cocaine;
  • witness intimidation and some criminal threats.

How Can You Avoid a 25-to-Life Sentence?

The reason you might avoid being put away for 25 to life, I would say number one, is because you have a great attorney who either fights the case and gets rid of it, mitigates it down, or negotiates with the prosecutor to strike the strike, so you don't receive that 25 years to life sentence.

You could avoid a 25-year to life sentence related to the three-strikes law if your attorney can file a Romero motion and get the court to strike your strikes. 

First, the rule is generally, in all of the courthouses, at least in LA county and most other counties, you first have to try to go through the district attorney's office to see if they're willing to strike one or both of your prior strikes before you can go to the judge. 

If the DA's office refuses to strike your strikes, your next move would be to file a Romero motion and try to get the judge to strike the strikes for a deal. 

Real Three-Strike Case Example

I recently had a case out in Riverside county.  My client was a third-striker facing 25 to life, which looked bleak. I got on the case, and one thing that helped him tremendously was that the sheriffs let him go, even though he was a third-striker and had a million-dollar bail.

Real Three-Strike Case Example

Because of the Covid virus, they were moving people out of there, and he had what's called an Estes robbery, a robbery where you use force or fear during your escape, and he was just stealing some wine from a supermarket. 

Nobody got hurt.  He had no weapon.  He didn't threaten anybody.  So, the sheriffs let him set in motion a chain of events that helped him because the prosecutors tried to get him back in, and the judge said look, what do you want me to do? 

I've set the bail at a million.  They let him out.  And then what happened was, because Covid was running so rampant there, the judges at Riverside county decided they would start striking strikes on some of these cases. 

Fortunately, I was able to convince them to strike.  My client had five prior strikes.  They struck four of them.  He had to admit one, and he ended up getting the low term double for a four-year sentence, so he went from facing 25 to life and the prosecutor saying they wouldn't even consider anything less than a double-digit offer to that four years. 

Criminal Lawyer for Three Strike Cases

So, you never know what can happen in a third-strike case, but you've got to have a seasoned veteran attorney. I've been around since the three-strikes law went into effect.  I've seen all of the angles related to that law.  I know what it takes to get you the best result.

Criminal Lawyer for California Three Strike Cases

Anyone facing severe California felony charges needs aggressive representation from a criminal defense lawyer with the experience to fight these charges.

I know how to challenge, reduce, and defeat serious felony charges. Further, I know how to convince the trial court to remove prior strikes to avoid the harsh effect of the three-strikes law.

If you or your loved one is facing 25 to life and need help, you will need to find an attorney that can come up with an angle to put you in the best possible position. Pick up the phone now and ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.

The Hedding Law Firm is based in Los Angeles and provides a free case consultation by phone, or you can fill out the contact form.