First, a controlling fact. California’s much-reviled “three-strikes” law bears no resemblance to what you’ve read about it in the news. How much no resemblance? Lots of no resemblance:
- Prosecutors and judges have discretion in applying the law. Discretion means “not draconian.” Discretions means that it isn’t really a “three-strikes” law but merely a recidivist statute that permits, but in no way requires, application of its sentencing guidelines. Someone can have 20 strikes and the law still won’t necessarily be applied. Someone can rape and molest dozens of women and children and still not get three strikes sentencing. The reality of criminal prosecution is that, in virtually all cases, when people face multiple charges (barring a few such as murder) those charges are telescoped down to one or two, and the others offenses are simply not prosecuted. The tiny number of people facing three-strikes sentencing are extremely flagrant offenders who have committed dozens or hundreds — not two-and-a-half — violent crimes.
- There are no people serving life sentences “merely” for stealing Cheetos or a VCR tape. Those are myths.
- Prosecutors use this recidivist sentencing law so rarely that most apply it just a few times a year, and even then, it frequently doesn’t lead to 25-to-life. But media reporting frequently stops at the original charge.
- The lies the media tells about “three-strikes” are legion. The word” strike” better describes the media’s flailing confabulations about recidivism sentencing than any aspect of sentencing itself.
There is a great website by Mike Reynolds, an expert on California’s three-strikes law and its application (application being 95% of the law, no matter what they tell you in school). I urge you to read his site and support his efforts: ...