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Penalties under California's three-strike law remain harsh

California's three-strike system when it comes to criminal law was implemented in 1994 as Proposition 184.  Individuals convicted of three felonies under this law can end up serving a life sentence.

Besides being expensive, the law also remains controversial.  Individuals that have only been convicted of non-violent offenses may be forced to serve harsh sentences because of implementation of this law.  Additionally, the law has been criticized for disproportionately affecting the African-American community.  Finally, around 40 percent of individuals charged a third time suffer from mental illness.

Legislators may have implemented three-strike laws to demonstrate they are taking a tough stance on crime. Such an attempt to appear tough on crime, however, has led to excessively severe penalties for certain inmates.

Statistics have shown that many individuals that allegedly relapse are those charged with property crimes. Many of those sentenced under the three-strike law may have only spent a small amount of prior time in jail for crimes like petty theft. Also, those that have been arrested on more than one occasion are more likely to be younger rather than older individuals. Besides being younger, individuals sentenced under the three-strike criteria are also likely to be uneducated.

The harsh sentences that have been handed out due to the three-strike system demonstrate why charges for even seemingly minor offenses need to be fought. An elevation of such a charge to a felony could result in disastrous consequences down the road.

Probably no one is in great of need of the advice and counsel of an attorney than someone charged in a criminal matter.  It can be extremely vital to speak to an attorney experienced in criminal defense before agreeing to anything after being charged with a crime.

Source: The Stanford Daily, "The Pitfalls of California's Three Strikes Law," Anthony Ghosn, Feb. 25, 2014

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