Three Strikes Crime Lawyer in California


I have been practicing criminal defense in Los Angeles since the “Three Strikes Law” in California in the early 1990s. It has both changed and evolved in the almost twenty-five years of being in existence, and it appears that it is here to stay; if you have strike priors, you better get an attorney that knows what they are doing.

When I evaluate these cases for my clients as a three-strikes crimes attorney, I am looking at the judge and prosecutor's same things and strategizing what I can bring to the bear to save my client years in prison. In evaluating a three-strikes case, the court will look at the prior offense or offenses, the current offense, and the defendant's overall criminal record in deciding how to handle the case and the sentence.

The three-strikes law was enacted to punish career criminals and make sure they no longer commit crimes. The newer the strike, the more likely the judge or prosecutor will not strike it for purposes of the three-strikes law. The prosecutors have a ten-year policy and typically say they will not consider hitting a strike unless it is ten years old.

However, I have seen them and judges strike strikes within ten years of the current offense as long as there are other factors in place that the criminal defense attorney can successfully argue. A lawyer or attorney who is not familiar with the three-strikes crimes cannot represent you the way you should be meant. Make sure you have an experienced three-strikes crimes attorney by your side to handle your case.

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You should sit down with a seasoned attorney as soon as possible and figure out what can be done to achieve the best result. Being an experienced lawyer, I sit down with my clients and tell them precisely what we need to be in the best position and what they can do to assist in their defense. Sometimes it seems hopeless when the government is stacked up against you.

However, if your case is handled the right way, you give yourself the best chance of success. It is essential to let the judge and prosecutor know what makes you a good person, and the redeeming qualities you possess warrant giving you a break. If we can humanize you and show them the lives you have touched positively, we put you in the best position to win.

The Policy Behind The California Three Strikes Law

The three-strikes law, created in 1994, was designed to prevent people from committing crimes. The three-strikes rules aim to stop career criminal defendants from committing crimes and be a plaque on society.

Hence, if the subject defendant does not have much of a record, we will have an excellent argument to strike or avoid one altogether. On the other hand, if the subject person has a record dating back years that is getting worse and worse, then the prosecutor and judge will be looking to put them away for as long as possible.

If this happens, the future of the individual is ruined. Therefore, the person must contact a criminal lawyer before it is too late. Before the law was created, the prison population was up 400% and significantly decreased after the three strikes law, although overcrowding remains an issue.

The governor of California has created more and more programs to continue to shrink the prison population. Since the Three Strikes Law's inception, I have seen the prosecutor use it as a powerful weapon in forcing criminal defendants into deals that they usually would not accept. However, with the weight of this law behind them, it has been a battle to make sure clients are treated fairly.

The way the three-strikes law works is that you get a strike on your record. If you are convicted of a violent felony, you get a strike on your record. Then, suppose you are convicted of a second criminal offense. In that case, whether violent or non-violent, you will get a second strike, and your prison sentence can be doubled from the original sentence the second crime carries. If you have two strikes and are convicted of a crime, even a simple assault, you can face life in prison because of the three-strikes law. 

How Will a Prosecutor Try To Prove A Prior Strike In My Case?

To prove a prior strike in someone's case, a prosecutor will run that person's criminal record through the CLETS system. This is done in every criminal matter—not just to identify prior strikes but to view the entirety of a defendant's criminal record to decide how to handle a new offense.

If a prior strike is found, the filing deputy for the district attorney's office will file a criminal complaint, wherein the intention to prosecute that defendant under the three strikes law will be made clear. If the prosecutors decide that it's appropriate, they will strike off the complaint, and the threat of being prosecuted under the three strikes law would be removed.

If someone receives a strike, they will not necessarily be sentenced to time in prison; they could receive a county jail sentence or no jail time at all. The concept of parole comes into play when someone has been released from state prison.

If someone were sentenced to county jail time instead of prison time, they would be placed on probation instead of parole. A parole generally lasts for one to three years, and the parolee will be assigned a parole officer and a set of rules by which they must abide.

What Can Be Done About The Higher Percentage Of Time That Inmates Have To Serve

When it comes to the Three Strikes Law and the percentage of time served, the rate is dictated by the charge that the criminal defendant pleads to in a given case. If the person pleas to a violent felony, they will serve 85% of the time.

If they lead to a serious felony, they will serve 80% of the time. There is no such thing as negotiating the percentage. If a criminal defense attorney negotiates on behalf of their client, they will be dealing with what charge they plead to. If the person does not lead to a strike-related offense, they will serve 50% of the time.

Most crimes counted as a strike on your criminal record are murder, assault with a deadly weapon, sexual assault, rape, child molestation, drug trafficking, drug transportation, drug sales, burglary, auto theft, carjacking, and domestic violence, to name a few.

Our criminal attorneys at the Hedding Law Firm have the experience and skill to handle all cases in criminal defense. We do everything we can to avoid prison, especially a life sentence, if you face a third strike, and we provide dedicated representation to get the job done. We are highly experienced in this area of law. Contact us for a free case evaluation if you encounter a three-strikes crime or have any questions concerning the three-strikes law. 

How Are Juvenile Convictions Handled Under Three Strikes Law?

Juvenile convictions can qualify as strikes under the California three strikes law. The defining line for a juvenile case is that the defendant must have been at least 16 years old when they committed the offense. If a 15-year-old juvenile committed a robbery, it would not be considered a strike, even though theft is on the list of crimes that qualify for the three-strikes law.

In addition, not all juvenile offenses are strikes. For example, regardless of the offender's age, burglary does not qualify as a strike. These matters can get complicated, and for a defendant to get the best possible result and avoid becoming a victim of the system, so to speak, they need to obtain a criminal defense attorney who is very familiar with the three-strikes law.

How Can I Apply To Get A Strike Removed?

The strike cannot be removed once someone pleads or is found guilty of a strike crime under the three-strikes law. This is true even if someone committed a crime that was not initially a strike but later became a strike due to a change in the law. If someone has a prior strike and is concerned that they will be subject to the three-strikes law, they should leave the state of California because there is no way to get rid of strikes.

There is an exciting twist related to the three strikes law: if someone has a robbery strike and then picks up a non-strike felony, that non-strike felony would be treated as a second strike. For example, suppose someone has a conviction for robbery and picks up an additional conviction for theft. In that case, the prosecutors could offer two years for the robbery but then double it due to the prior strike. Due to it being a violent felony, that person would have to serve 85 percent of a four-year prison sentence.

In some scenarios, someone might only steal a pack of gum but get chased down and tackled in trying to escape. If they were to use force in the process of trying to escape, then the act of stealing the pack of gum would be considered robbery.

Robbery Case Example

This type of charge is often referred to as Nancy's robbery. If someone finds themselves with an order of this nature and has a prior strike on their record, they would face a four-year sentence.

However, a reasonable defense attorney could argue that charge using positive details about the circumstances of the offense and reach a deal with the head prosecutor, who may decide to strike the prior strike for that deal. If that could be accomplished, the defendant would no longer face four years of imprisonment but perhaps probation, community service, or local jail time.

It is essential to understand that the strike would not be removed altogether but struck for the deal under such circumstances. If the defendant had to plead to a robbery to get that deal, they would have two strikes on their record. The three-strikes law can be complicated because it has changed over the past 25 years, and the Supreme Court has fought it. Only the best criminal defense lawyers will be aware of the changes and know how those changes may apply to any particular case.