Here’s What You Need to Know About the Three Strikes Law in California


California’s Three Strikes Law is an intriguing policy enacted in 1994 that introduced a striking strategy that imposes harsh penalties on individuals with repeat felonies. This groundbreaking law was aimed at reducing the crime rate in California.

Have you or a loved one been found guilty of an offense under the Three Strikes Law? The key to turning the tide in your favor is by using an experienced California felony defense lawyer. Here are things you need to know about California’s Three Strikes Law.

What are the Three Strikes Laws?

The Three Strikes Law is a criminal sentencing laws or habitual offender laws that impacts the punishments for criminal offenses. When an individual is convicted of three serious crimes, they are required to serve a mandatory life sentence in jail, with or without parole based on the jurisdiction.

The main motive of the three strikes laws is to increase the punishment for persons who continue to commit offenses after being convicted of one or two serious crimes. These three strikes rule applies to person in the following categories:

  • Habitual felony offenders
  • Violent career criminals
  • Three-time violent felony offenders
  • Habitual violent felony offenders

Provisions of the Three Strikes Law


The law operates by imposing severe consequences aimed at managing criminal offenders considered to be unwavering by serving prison time. The law is structured into three tiers.

  • First Strike: You will receive a standard sentence as prescribed in the law if you are convicted of a serious or violent felony for the first time.
  • Second Strike: The sentencing for your second offense will be twice the term prescribed under the law.
  • Third Strike: Regardless of the severity of your third offense, you will receive a minimum of 25 years to life imprisonment if you have two prior convictions of serious or violent felonies.

Justification of Three Strikes Law Implementation

The proponents of the Three Strikes Law argue that it is an effective way of reducing the crime rate in California in two ways.

  • A longer sentence will keep the offenders away from society longer, restricting the chance to commit additional crimes.
  • The threat of severe consequences will discourage the offenders from committing other crimes.

Felonies under the Three Strikes Law

The California Penal Code defines a felony in California as an offense punishable by death, imprisonment, or by law. Felonies under the three strikes law are categorized into serious and violent offenses. Some of the violent felonies listed in Penal Code 667.5 (c) include

  • Murder
  • Kidnapping
  • Rape
  • Robbery
  • Attempted murder
  • Carjacking
  • Threats to witnesses or victims

Some of the serious felonies specified in Penal Code 1192.7 (c) include

  • Mayhem
  • Rape
  • Murder or voluntary manslaughter
  • Shooting from a vehicle
  • Criminal threats
  • Assault with deadly weapons
  • Human trafficking

The crimes under the Three-Strikes Law are broad and liable to change. Seeking the advice of a California criminal defense attorney is crucial to being informed about any changes or updates.

What Rights Do Felons Lose in California?


Depending on whether you have a prior serious or violent offense, felony charges in California can carry very harsh sentencing, including death. However, the biggest challenge you might face after being convicted is not the possible prison time but the challenges you will face after serving your sentence. You might lose the following rights:

  • Voting rights: Felons in California are prohibited from voting while in a state or federal prison or on parole.
  • Employment: Employers in California have a right to conduct background checks before hiring. They Ccan choose not to employ you if you have been previously convicted of a felony. According to Prison Policy Initiatives, the unemployment rate of ex-convicts in the United States is five times higher than the unemployment rate of the general population.
  • Traveling to other countries: Felons are not legally barred from traveling to other countries. However, most countries will deny you a visa to travel to their country if you have a criminal record.
  • Child Custody: Most judges will find you unfit and think you have a negative influence on your children if you have been convicted of a felony. You may lose your child custody and may also be denied visitation rights.

Options Available for a Defendant Under the Three-Strikes Law

Although felony charges in California are serious crimes, a criminal defense attorney can help with various legal defenses. One of the options is to appeal to remove a previous strike. A criminal attorney in California can also help you reduce the charges of a felony to a misdemeanor.

You may also negotiate a plea deal with help from a California criminal defense attorney. According to National Public Radio, 98% of criminal cases end in plea agreements. Negotiating a plea deal may reduce the severity of the punishment. You may also seek post-conviction options, such as appealing your case or petitioning for resentencing.


Keep in mind that having a criminal record does not mean that you have committed crime. So it is always better to have a clear understanding of third strike rules. If you are facing prosecution for a third strike offense, it is necessary to consult with an experienced defense lawyer who will make you aware of the three strikes law. And it will also help you overcome sentencing. They will also help you prevent a conviction from going on your record.

The Three Strikes Law is a just policy that drastically increases the punishment of convicted offenders with repeated felonies. The harsh sentencing it carries makes it vital for anyone charged with a felony to seek assistance from a legal professional. An experienced attorney has all the resources to investigate the case. So they will build a strong defense on behalf of you. Remember that you should choose a defense attorney who has extensive experience handling felony crimes and violent crimes.

Besides, understanding the significance and the potential outcomes of the Three-Strikes Law will help you make informed decisions.

Written by Kan Dail