California modifies harshest 3-Strikes Law in the Nation

Nov. 11, 2012

The passage of Proposition 36‘s last week modified one of the most infamous laws in the nation’s history. While other states enacted 3-strikes laws, none went as far as California. Under California law, an offender with  two prior felonies that were designated as serious or dangerous under the penal code, convicted of a third felony, would be sent to prison for a term of 25 years to life. It didn’t matter what that third felony turned out to be.  Relatively minor offenses, such as a petty theft with a prior petty theft (designated as a felony in California)  could qualified as a third strike.

This is the first voter-sanctioned modification of California’s three-strikes law (the California Supreme Court has carved out limited discretion for prosecutors and courts to three-strike allegation). Prop. 36 also authorizes the courts to resentence thousands of three-strikers whose third offenses were not violent or serious, as long as they do not pose a serious risk to public safety.

A proposition proposing limitations on the imposition of the three-strikes law was rejected in the past. This overwhelming approval of three-strike reform by the California electorate suggests that substantial criminal justice reform is now possible through the electoral system. (see Sacramento Bee article)

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