Three Strikes and You're [Possibly?] Out: California Voters Reform the Three Strikes Law

November 8, 2012

The historic passage of Proposition 36 this week has signaled a momentous change in California’s Three Strikes Law.

The measure, which passed easily with nearly 70% of the popular vote, will revise the Three Strikes Law so as to impose a life sentence only under two circumstances:

  1. When the third felony conviction is "serious or violent,'' or

  2. For a minor felony crime if the perpetrator is a murderer, rapist or child molester.

As a result of California’s existing Three Strikes Law, which allows a third strike for any felony, there have been numerous cases involving sentences arguably in violation of the 8th Amendment constitutional right against cruel and unusual punishment.

In one case, for example, a man’s third strike and subsequent life sentence came after he stole a pizza. Another individual had been given a life sentence for merely stealing a pair of socks. Perhaps the harshest life sentence resulted after an individual broke into a soup kitchen simply to get food to eat.

Historically, the Three Strikes Law has undoubtedly dealt its biggest blow to members of the African-American community. In fact, nearly forty-five percent of third-strikers are African-American.

However, thanks to the passage of Proposition 36, roughly 3,000 three-strikers now serving life sentences for relatively minor crimes may appeal to a judge for early release or a shorter term!