The California Supreme Court has overturned a defendant’s five year sentence enhancement under California Penal Code 667(a), California’s “three strikes” law. ” The enhancement was based upon the defendant having been previously convicted of assault with a deadly weapon.
A unanimous court held that since a judge had reduced the earlier crime from a felony to a misdemeanor before the defendant had committed his most recent crimes, the offense no longer qualified as a prior serious felony within the meaning of 667(a), and could not be used to enhance his sentence.
In the earlier case, the defendant pleaded guilty to a charge of felony assault with a deadly weapon under California Penal Code 245(a)(1). The judge in that case suspended imposition of sentence and placed the defendant on three years’ probation.
After the defendant successfully completed the terms of his probation, the judge reduced the offense to a misdemeanor in accordance with the procedures of California Penal Code 17(b)(3).
In the later case, a jury found the defendant guilty of attempted voluntary manslaughter and assault with a firearm.
During sentencing, the prior conviction was revealed. Despite the court being told that the earlier offense had been reduced to a misdemeanor, the judge sentenced the defendant to a total term of 24 years, which included a second-strike sentence of 12 years for the assault conviction and a five-year sentence enhancement under 667(a), based on the defendant having been previously convicted of a serious felony.