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.

The California “three strikes” law, legally defined under Penal Code 667 PC, is a sentencing scheme where defendants can receive a prison sentence of 25 years to life if convicted of three serious or violent felony offenses.

Suppose you or a loved one is charged with a three-strikes case. In that case, you are still potentially looking at 25 to life if the prosecutors show you have two prior strikes, either serious or violent felonies. Your new strike is a serious or violent felony.

Defense of Three Strikes Law Cases

Then they can charge you under the three-strikes law. Your bail will be high.  You'll be facing 25 to life, giving the prosecutors much power against you. However, suppose your case is being prosecuted in the San Fernando Valley, and you have a fair prosecutor handling the case. In that case, they are likely to look at the current state of the law related to how the District Attorney's office is enforcing the Three Strikes Law.

A lot of times, instead of filing both of our prior strikes, they'll only file one of the previous strikes, and a lot of times, we can get the prosecutors to strike the strikes. We can get some better resolution than you usually would have called before the new head prosecutor took over.

However, the type of defendants who are charged with the three-strikes law and who the prosecutors are trying to send away for life are those people who:

  • they designate as career offenders; and
  • those people who commit serious or violent felonies trigger the prosecutors to think about putting the person away for life.

When you talk about a career offender, you talk about somebody who has gone to prison multiple times, continues to get charged with severe criminal offenses, and is a danger to society. Those are the people the prosecutors will try to put away for life. Our Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers will take a closer look below.

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. 

Crimes That are “Strikes” under California's Three Strikes Law

In California, a “strike” under the three-strikes law is a conviction for a violent felony defined under Penal Code 667.5 PC or a severe felony defined under Penal Code 1192.7 PC, including:

  • Penal Code 187 PC – murder,
  • Penal Code 664/187 PC – attempted murder,
  • Penal Code 297 PC – kidnapping,
  • Penal Code 215 PC – carjacking,
  • Penal Code 203 PC – mayhem,
  • Penal Code 261 PC – rape,
  • Penal Code 287 PC – oral copulation by force,
  • Penal Code 288 PC – lewd acts on a child under fourteen,
  • Penal Code 286 PC – sodomy
  • Penal Code 203 PC – mayhem,
  • Penal Code 192(a) PC – voluntary manslaughter,
  • Penal Code 451 PC – arson,
  • any felony punishable by life in prison or the death penalty;
  • any felony where a significant bodily injury occurred;
  • assault with a deadly weapon on a police officer;
  • any felony where the defendant used a dangerous weapon;
  • assault with intent to commit rape or robbery;
  • arson and exploding destructive devices with some types of intent;
  • discharge of a firearm into an inhabited vehicle or dwelling;
  • first-degree burglary, robbery, and bank robbery;
  • witness intimidation or victim and specific criminal threats;
  • kidnapping and hostage-taking by a prisoner;
  • serious felony drug offenses involving heroin and cocaine;

Sometimes, there are three strikes disputes about a qualifying felony offense, especially if the conviction was in another state. It is possible to appeal a three strikes sentence in California. In 2012, Proposition 36 made significant changes to the three-strikes law allowing inmates to appeal their ruling. If successful in their appeal, they could get released from prison earlier or immediately.

They could file an appeal on their sentence based on it being unconstitutional under the Eight Amendment of the United States Constitution for cruel and unusual punishment.

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. 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.

How to Strike a Strike

The three-strikes law has been around since the early 1990s.  It came into effect in 1993.  I was a practicing attorney at the time.  I had just passed the bar, so I learned all about it and have been dealing with strike cases for the past 26 years of practicing criminal defense, so I have a pretty good feel for how they've evolved; how they're dealt with.

The bottom line is, to strike a strike, if you have a prior strike and then you have a new felony, and they're trying to either make it a second strike case or a third strike case, you're going to have to take it up the chain to the head prosecutor. They usually have the power to strike a strike or strike two strikes, depending on the circumstances of the case.  So, you need to remember that you're going to need somebody who's got a relationship and knows how to deal with the head prosecutors.

Especially if you've got a striking case that you're trying to fight, and either you're trying to fight the open case and say that you're not guilty, or if you're guilty of the open case, your attorney is trying to convince the head prosecutor to strike your strike, so you don't get your sentence doubled up, so you're not looking at 25 to live, for example, for those people who are three strikers.

Romero Motion

One big weapon used in defense of strike cases is a Romero Motion.  That's a motion filed by the criminal defense attorney on the defendant's behalf.  It's filed with the judge who has control of the case at the time, and you're asking that judge to strike one or more strikes.

Three Strikes Law in Los Angeles Criminal Courts

That doesn't end the inquiry, though.  The next thing is, if the judge is willing to strike, you still have the open case to deal with.  So, you'd have to plead guilty or no contest to that, and then you'd have to have an idea of what the judge would be sentencing you to, even if the judge strikes a strike.

I've seen cases where the judge strikes a strike in a second strike case, but the person still goes to prison for some time.  That doesn't just solve everything because the strike gets struck; you still have to deal with the case. Another confusing thing is that if you have a strike prior, let's say you have a robbery, and your attorney can convince the judge to strike that robbery for robbery. Your attorney can persuade the judge to strike that robbery for purposes of sentencing in a new case that doesn't get rid of the robbery.  The robbery is still there.  It's just not used against you in your current case for purposes of sentencing you.

So, many different angles can be taken for first, second, and third strike cases.  A first strike case is when somebody doesn't have any prior strikes on their record, and they're charged with a crime, but if they plead guilty or have no contest to it, they're going to get a strike on their roster. So, one big thing that we try to do in the San Fernando Valley courts is to avoid even getting the first strike in the first place.  So, you have to come up with other crimes that might foot the bill.

Examples of “Strike” Cases

For example, in our robbery example, if somebody takes somebody's property by force or fear, they can be charged with robbery.  They could also be charged with Penal Code Section 487c, which handles property from somebody's person, but it's not a robbery.  It's also not a strike.  So, that's one example of how we can avoid a first strike in the first place.

The following example has to do with a second strike case.  That's where you have a prior strike, and now you've picked up a new felony, and they're trying to make it a second strike case. Obviously, in that scenario, if you're going to have to plead guilty to something, you want to see if the prosecutors first will strike the strike and if they won't, then you can file a Romero Motion with the judge and see if the judge will strike the strike.

Then, of course, there's the scenario where you have two prior strikes, and you pick up a new felony, and you're looking at a third strike case, and you're looking to either get one or both of those strikes stricken for purposes of resolving the case.

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.

Negotiation with Prosecutor in Three Strikes Cases

So, if you or a loved one falls under that category, you should immediately contact an attorney like me who's been practicing criminal defense for nearly 30 years.

California Three Strikes Case Defense Attorney

I know what it takes to win cases when they don't have the evidence against you, and I know what it takes to negotiate instances when they do have the proof, but you're not the type of person that should go away for 25 to life. Pick up the phone now if you've got a Three Strikes case in the San Fernando Valley and are looking for somebody who knows how to convince prosecutors to strike strikes.

Also, who knows how to fight for their clients, how to show prosecutors where you are now and that you are not your past, but you do have a strong future.

So, you can see, this can start to get pretty complicated.  But if you've got a case in LA County, I've been doing this for 26 years, and I know what it takes to get the best result if you face a potential strike or second strike case — even a first strike case — you've got to come up with a strategy right from the beginning.  That's what I do.

We sit down and go over everything.  The type of stuff we're looking at is, what were the underlying facts of your strike or strikes?  Because that's one o the things that the prosecutors are going to consider when deciding whether to strike them.

Also, how long ago were they.  They usually have to be ten years old for the prosecutors to consider striking them. Although I have been successful in striking cases that have not been ten years old, that's the protocol for prosecutors in Los Angeles County and throughout the San Fernando Valley courthouses, looking at the age of those strikes.

Also, they're going to look at what those strikes were.  What happened in them, and then finally, they will look at your current case.  Is your current point weak?  Is it a strong case?  Is it a violent case?  Are there victims in the case? So, you start to see that there's a whole formula for assessing strike cases.

Pick up the phone.  Ask for a meeting with Ron Hedding.  I stand at the ready to help you if you've got a Three Strikes case. Hedding Law Firm is based in Los Angeles County, and we offer a free case evaluation by calling 213-542-0940.

Related Content: