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Los Angeles Violent Crimes Attorneys and California’s Three Strikes Law
Persons charged with violent crimes in Los Angeles are targeted by a criminal justice system which will devote significant law enforcement resources to have them prosecuted, convicted and sent to jail.
Defendants charged with violent crimes and/or serious felonies, and who also have prior convictions for a violent crime, face even greater hurdles because of California’s three strikes law (California Penal Code §667 PC). However, Los Angeles violent crimes attorneys stand ready to challenge the prosecutors’ case, working to reduce charges, limit jail terms and even win acquittals after trial.
What is a Violent Crime under California Penal Code §667.5 PC?
There are several crimes that immediately come to mind when discussing violent crimes (defined in Penal Code §667.5 PC). Murder, voluntary manslaughter and attempted murder are certainly considered violent crimes (and serious felonies; defined in Penal Code §1192.7(c) PC) in California. Other violent crimes, which are also considered serious felonies, in California include:
- Lewd acts with a minor under 14 years of age
- Assault intending to rape someone
- Assault intending to rob someone
- Assault with a deadly weapon on a peace officer
Any felony committed in which the defendant used a dangerous or deadly weapon is considered a violent crime.
Lastly, any felony punishable by death or imprisonment in state prison for life is considered a violent crime.
How Does California’s Three Strikes Law Work?
California’s Three Strikes law targets defendants who have been convicted of two or three felony offenses. It requires enhanced sentencing of these repeat offenders.
California’s three strikes law dates back to the 1990s. Voter referendums have tinkered with it several times it. In fact, conviction of certain offenses in the past, which would have led to an increased sentence, are not third strike offenses today.
Third Strike Defendants
Defendants who are convicted of a serious or violent felony, and already have two convictions for violent or serious felonies, are automatically sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
If a defendant with two prior convictions for violent or serious felonies is convicted of any felony, the sentencing judge will double the penalty for that felony conviction. For instance, if the third felony conviction calls for a sentence of up to four years in jail, the judge will sentence the convicted felon up to eight years in jail.
However, there are a few felonies, conviction of which would lead to the 25 years-to-life sentence. Those include drug crimes involving cocaine or heroin, felony sex crimes or using a firearm during the commission of the felony.
Two Strike Defendants
California’s three strike law is of a misnomer. A defendant who has just one prior violent or serious felony conviction can also be the subject of enhanced sentencing.
If a defendant with one prior violent or serious felony is convicted of another violent/serious felony, the sentencing judge may double the length of the sentence for the new conviction.
There are Even “One Strike” Defendants
Under Penal Code §667.61 PC, defendants convicted of certain sex crimes, such as rape, sodomy or continuous sexual abuse of a child, may be the subject of increased sentencing if specific aggravating factors are present. This applies to defendants who do not have a prior conviction for a serious or violent felony. Those aggravating factors include having a prior conviction for one of those crimes, using a dangerous weapon during the commission of the crime or kidnapping the victim.
Other Issues with California’s Three Strike Law
In California, a person sentenced to jail may earn credits for good behavior. Earn enough credits and an inmate can be released after serving only half their sentence.
That privilege is restricted under the three strikes law. A person sentenced as a second or third striker must serve at least 80% of their sentence before being released. A second or third striker who was convicted of a violent felony must serve 85% of their sentence before being released.
Frequently, people who are convicted of multiple but distinct crimes receive “concurrent” sentences.
For instance, a person could carjack an auto at gunpoint. Later that day, he goes to a convenience store and commits an armed robbery. If convicted of the carjacking and armed robbery, judges will impose sentences for each crime. Frequently, however, they make the sentences for each crime concurrent, meaning the jail time is counted for both crimes at the same time (a three-year sentence for the carjacking and a two-year sentence for the armed robbery means the defendant will serve three years, not five).
Defendants who are sentenced under the three-strike law serve consecutive sentences for multiple convictions of distinct crimes. In the example above, the defendant would serve his enhanced sentence one after the other, not at the same time.
How Can a Los Angeles Violent Crime Attorney Defend a Third Strike Law Case?
There are several steps experienced Los Angeles violent crime attorneys can to prevent the enhanced sentencing of a client.
A Los Angeles violent crime attorney can request the judge to dismiss one or more of the underlying strike offenses. The judge could disregard the prior conviction because of the length of time since the conviction occurred and/or circumstances involved in the recent crime.
In 2012, a referendum changed the third strike law. Now, several crimes which resulted in defendants receiving enhanced sentences no longer apply. If you or a loved one were sentenced based on part of the third strike law, which no longer exists, your attorney can petition the court to reduce your sentence or release you from jail.
Los Angeles Violent Crimes Lawyers
Persons facing charges under California’s third strike law should immediately contact experienced Los Angeles violent crime attorneys. Daniel Perlman and Matthew Cohen are experienced Los Angeles criminal defense lawyers at Perlman & Cohen. They have represented clients in all types of criminal cases in Los Angeles courts, including those charged with violent crimes.
Perlman & Cohen will stand by you as they investigate, collect all relevant evidence and find witnesses who may be helpful to your defense. In appropriate cases, they will negotiate a plea to lesser charges that will make the third strike law inapplicable.
Otherwise, they will prepare the case for trial and make prosecutors prove their case beyond reasonable doubt. Call them at (310) 299-0062 to set up a free consultation.