California’s Three Strikes Law

The Three Strikes Law is a California sentencing guideline that imposes longer prison terms on certain types of repeat offender. When enacted in 1994, it mandated that a defendant with a prior serious felony conviction receive twice the prison term normally called for if they are convicted a second time. A third conviction was automatically punished by 25 years to life.
The law had been passed at the height of the anger following the murders of Polly Klaas and Kimber Reynolds by defendants with previous felony convictions. Its intent was to protect the public from violent repeat offenders, but amendments were introduced over to the years to counter criticism that the law violated the Eighth Amendment constitutional right against cruel and unusual punishment and disproportionately impacted minority defendants.

In November 2012 the Three Strikes Law was significantly amended by Proposition 36, which introduced two major revisions:
● For a defendant to be punished as a ‘third strike’ offender, the third felony had to be a serious or violent one
● Defendants currently serving a sentence for their third strike were permitted under certain conditions to petition the court to reduce their term to a second strike sentence