What Is the California Three Strikes Law?

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Highly Successful San Diego County Criminal Defense Attorney Kerry L. Armstrong Explains the Controversial Three Strikes Law in California

The California Three Strikes law is a controversial section of the Penal Code. The statute forces state prosecutors to seek draconian prison sentences for anyone with two previous convictions for violent crimes on their record.

You face incarceration from twenty-five years to life if the state convicts you under the California Three Strikes law.

The stakes for you are incredibly high if you face prosecution under the Three Strikes law in California. That is why fighting felony crimes is vitally important.

If you have charges alleging a violent crime in California, you need a tough, accomplished, and dedicated San Diego County criminal defense lawyer to fight for you. 

California Three Strikes Law 

The Three Strikes law borrows its name from a fundamental rule of baseball: three strikes and you are out. Under the California Penal Code, any person with two prior serious or violent felony convictions faces twenty-five years to life in prison if they plead to or the jury convicts them of a third serious or violent felony.

In other words, the third strike takes you out of society and places you in prison for a very long time.

The California Three Strikes rule also applies to people who have two violent or serious felony convictions and face a third felony charge that does not fall into the category of serious or violent felonies.

In that scenario, the California Three Strikes law still applies, but if convicted, you do not face twenty-five years to life. Instead, you face a sentence that is twice the usual prison sentence.

The legislation supposedly makes society safer. A person with two prior robbery offenses who suffers from a crippling drug addiction could go to prison for life if they commit another robbery, even though it is a symptom of an addiction. 

The Three Strikes Law Still Applies Even If You Have Only One Prior Conviction

Even one prior conviction for a violent crime on your record allows the prosecution to charge you with a sentencing enhancement.

The Three Strikes law in California also applies to a person who has one strike and is convicted of another serious or violent crime. In that case, so-called “second strikers” will have double the amount of time to serve. 

What Are Violent or Serious Offenses Under the Three Strikes Law in California?

Violent offenses include crimes such as:

  • Murder,
  • Voluntary manslaughter,
  • Rape,
  • Forcible sodomy,
  • Oral copulation,
  • Arson,
  • Carjacking,
  • Extortion, and
  • Arson.

Any crime involving personal use of a firearm is also a serious offense. Other serious crimes include:

  • Robbery;
  • Grand theft involving the use of a firearm;
  • Selling hard drugs like cocaine, heroin, meth, or PCP to a minor;
  • Burglary in the first-degree; and
  • Any felony involving personally inflicting great bodily injury.

Some offenses committed as a juvenile would count as a strike if the juvenile conviction occurred when the person was at least sixteen years old when the crime happened.

You should also be aware that convictions from other states count as strikes as well.

Dedicated, Compassionate California Three Strikes Defense Lawyer Will Protect Your Rights

You have options if you have violent offense charges pending against you. However, you must seek the advice of a criminal defense attorney to guide you in the right direction and help you before it is too late.

If you have any felony charge pending, you should fight it vigorously, even if it is your first offense. Pleading to a felony conviction or losing after trial could set you up to spend decades of your life behind bars.

Therefore, preventing felony convictions in the first place will help you avoid the application of the California Three Strikes law.  

San Diego violent crime defense lawyer Kerry L. Armstrong and his team of dedicated criminal defense lawyers with the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, have the experience you need to protect your future.

We have well over one-hundred criminal jury trials under our belts. With our expertise, savvy, and compassion for our clients, you could avoid spending your life in prison. Call the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, today at 619-773-0663 for a free consultation. 

Author Photo

Kerry L. Armstrong


Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm in June 2007. Mr. Armstrong attended Thomas Jefferson School of Law, San Diego, California, and received his B.S. from Middle Tennessee State University. Kerry L. Armstrong became certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization for criminal law in August 2020, making him one of the few criminal defense attorneys with a criminal law legal specialization certificate in San Diego County.  Between 2014 – 2019, Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys.

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