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)