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In 1994, California enacted a statute known as the “three strikes law.” The law, intended to punish repeat felony offenders, extends the prison terms of individuals convicted of certain crimes. Below is an overview of California’s three strikes law.


The Details


The three strikes law mandates that certain three-time felony offenders face prison sentences of 25 years to life. In addition, individuals convicted of a felony following an initial conviction of a serious felony offense can face a sentence that is twice as long as the statutorily mandated legal timeframe for the second conviction. Other details of California’s three strikes law include:


  • The time period between felonies doesn’t affect sentencing – Under the three strikes law, the amount of time between felony offenses isn’t considered. In other words, it makes no difference whether a previous felony conviction is thirty years old or one year old. The sentencing requirements of the law are not affected by the passage of time.


  • Consecutive sentencing – The three strikes law requires that sentences for multiple felony convictions run consecutively. There is no limit on the number of felony convictions that can be added to a consecutive sentence.


  • Probation and suspension aren’t available – Probation and suspended sentences are not available to those convicted under the three strikes law.


  • Credits reduced – Those serving time under the three strikes law may only reduce their sentences by one-fifth through education credits or work. Other prisoners, however, are permitted to reduce their sentences by up to one-half under similar circumstances.


  • 2012 Amendment – In 2012, the three strikes law was amended in two ways due to its harsh treatment of repeat offenders convicted of subsequent non-serious felonies. First, in order to face the full sentencing requirements of the law, an offender’s third strike must be a serious or violent felony. Second, an offender convicted under the previous version of the law may petition the court to remove a third strike if it was added based on a conviction for a non-serious felony.

only serious and violent felonies are applicable to the three strikes law

Serious and Violent Felonies


As noted above, only serious and violent felonies are applicable to the three strikes law. Examples of serious and violent felonies include:


  • Serious felonies- Serious felonies include all violent felonies and crimes such as attempted murder and assault with the intent to commit robbery.


  • Violent felony offenses- Violent felonies include rape, murder, robbery, and other forms of violent sexual assault.

San Diego Criminal Defense Attorneys


Due to the potential consequences involved, it is important that anyone charged with a serious or violent felony in San Diego, California, seek the guidance of an experienced criminal defense attorney. At the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, our experienced criminal defense attorneys provide all of our clients with expert legal guidance in order to achieve the most favorable results possible. The talent and experience of our San Diego, California, attorneys ensure that our clients’ cases are handled expertly and with the utmost care. If you or a loved one is facing serious or violent felony charges in California, please contact us immediately for a free consultation.

Author Photo

Kerry L. Armstrong

Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm, the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, in June 2007. In 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 Mr. Armstrong was selected for inclusion in the California Super Lawyers list, an honor only awarded to 5% of the nation’s attorneys. In 2017, he was also selected for the Super Lawyers Top 50 in San Diego list. In 2014, he was selected as a Top Attorney by Los Angeles Magazine. Additionally, Mr. Armstrong was also named as a Top Attorney by the San Diego Business Journal in 2014.

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