Courts Must Prepare for Proposition 36 Cases

November 19, 2012

Amidst budget cuts, layoffs, attrition and the closure of courthouses and courtrooms, California is struggling to accommodate the volume of litigation on court dockets.

The passage this month of Proposition 36 is only going to add to that challenge.

Proposition 36 reforms California three strikes law so that defendants whose third strike is a nonserious or nonviolent felony cannot be sentenced to life in prison. Moreover, the amendment applies retroactively, so that many life prisoners are eligible to be re-sentenced under the new California three strikes law to a reduced prison term.

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Fighting for Freedom: Families of Three-Strikers Race for Their Release

November 14, 2012

November 6, 2012 will long be remembered among countless Californians as a day that brought renewed faith and belief in the California criminal justice system.

On this day, Proposition 36 passed thanks to overwhelming support from the voters of California.

With this measure’s passage, the state’s stringent and highly detested Three Strikes Law has finally been reformed in favor of more fair, sensible, and humane sentencing practices.

While Proposition 36 has certainly made landmark changes in the law by prohibiting judges from imposing a life sentence on most repeat offenders who commit minor crimes, this only tells half the story.

In fact, the greatest blessing from the measure’s passage undeniable relates to the nearly 3,000 inmates and their countless family members who now have a renewed sense of hope and faith in the state’s criminal justice system.

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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.

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Appealing California "Three Strikes" Sentences

December 2, 2010

The courts have generally upheld California’s Three Strikes Law as constitutional. However, there are times when its application constitutes “cruel and unusual” punishment which is unconstitutional. Fortunately, when this is the case, the law provides a remedy…you can appeal a California “Three Strikes” sentence.

California’s “Three Strikes” law was originally designed to keep habitual, violent criminals behind bars. The law significantly enhances prison sentences for individuals who commit serious or violent felonies. Once an individual has committed two of these offenses, he/she faces a mandatory 25-years-to-life in prison for committing any felony…even if that third felony isn’t classified as serious or violent.

Hypothetically speaking, this means that someone who has committed two serious felonies who goes on to steal some medicine for his sick child…medicine which he cannot otherwise afford…could be imprisoned for life. Clearly, this type of situation qualifies as cruel and unusual punishment. And if this fictional character was sentenced to 25-years-to-life based on this offense, he could appeal his California “Three Strikes” sentence.

The fact is that this hypothetical situation is not all that uncommon with respect to “Three Strikes” sentences. And thankfully, the courts are beginning to recognize how cruel and unusual this sentencing scheme actually is.

If you or a loved one has been unfairly sentenced under this problematic and oftentimes unconstitutional law, you should immediately consult with an appellate attorney about appealing the California “Three Strikes” sentence.