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What Crimes Fall Under CA Three-Strikes Law?

California's Three-Strikes Law is a sentencing policy that aims to deter repeat offenders and protect public safety. Enacted in 1994, it imposes stricter penalties on individuals with prior convictions for serious or violent crimes. This article delves into the crimes that fall under California's Three-Strikes Law, providing a comprehensive understanding of its scope and impact on the criminal justice system.

Overview of the Three-Strikes Law

Under the Three-Strikes Law, if an individual has two prior convictions for qualifying offenses, their third felony conviction results in a mandatory prison sentence of 25 years to life. This law has had a significant impact on California's criminal justice system, leading to longer sentences for repeat offenders.

Qualifying Crimes for First and Second Strikes

For an offense to be considered a strike, it must be a serious or violent felony as defined by California law. Some examples of crimes that can serve as a first or second strike include:

  • Serious Felonies: Crimes such as murder, voluntary manslaughter, rape, kidnapping, robbery, residential burglary, carjacking, and certain types of assault.
  • Violent Felonies: Offenses like arson, extortion, child abuse, elder abuse, assault with a deadly weapon, criminal threats, and any felony punishable by death or life imprisonment.

It is crucial to note that the list of qualifying crimes is extensive and subject to change. Consultation with a legal professional is advised for the most up-to-date information.

Third Strike Eligibility

To receive a third strike sentence under the law, the individual's current conviction must be for a serious or violent felony. However, unlike the first and second strikes, the third strike can be any felony offense, regardless of its seriousness. This provision has garnered criticism for potentially imposing disproportionate sentences on individuals convicted of non-violent offenses as their third strike.

Impact and Controversies

The Three-Strikes Law has both supporters and critics, with ongoing debates regarding its effectiveness and fairness. Supporters argue that it deters repeat offenses and enhances public safety, while critics argue that it leads to excessively long sentences, disproportionately affects minority communities, and places a strain on the prison system.

Recent Reforms and Proposition 36

Recognizing the need for sentencing reform, California voters approved Proposition 36 in 2012. This reform modified the Three-Strikes Law, allowing certain individuals serving life sentences under the law to petition for reduced sentences if their third strike conviction was non-violent, non-serious, and non-sexual. This reform aimed to alleviate the impact of the law on individuals convicted of less severe crimes.

Legal Defense and Post-Conviction Options

If an individual is facing a third strike charge, various legal defenses may be available, including challenging the classification of prior offenses, contesting the validity of prior convictions, or negotiating a plea bargain. Post-conviction relief options, such as appeals or petitions for resentencing, may also be pursued under certain circumstances.


California's Three-Strikes Law is a significant sentencing policy that imposes harsh penalties on individuals with prior convictions for serious or violent crimes. By understanding the crimes that fall under this law, individuals can grasp their implications and potential consequences. As laws evolve and reforms are implemented, it remains crucial to seek legal advice and stay informed about changes that may affect the application of the Three-Strikes Law in individual cases.

If you are facing harsh penalties under CA’s Three-Strikes Law, contact Corrigan Welbourn Stokke, APLC.