"Three Strikers" is the term given to those defendants who have been sentenced to life imprisonment for some pretty minor stuff. One guy stole some socks, another broke into a soup kitchen because he was starving, and a third passed a worthless check for less than $150. All of these defendants are now serving life sentences in California because of the Three Strikes rule. Under this guideline, those who commit two serious, violent felonies are in danger of going to prison for life if they commit any more offenses, no matter how minor those offenses are. Some people think it's not a fair way to sentence people; one of those people is a state prosecutor.
Jeff Rosen, an elected California prosecutor, is leading the charge to change the way defendants are sentenced. As it now stands, courts in 24 states don't have the option of choosing anything but a life sentence for third-time offenders. Rosen is hoping Proposition 36 will pass in California. It would change the statute so only hard core offenders are sentenced to life terms. These include murderers, rapists and child molesters. All other defendants will only be sentenced to a life term if the third offense is also a serious and violent felony. If Prop 36 passes he intends to re-open the cases of those serving life terms for minor crimes. Did I mention he's a prosecutor? It's usually the defense attorneys who are looking out for the criminal defendants. Is this guy a little confused?
No, he's a hero, really. His sense of fairness and equal justice is to be commended. He is not looking to release all Three Strikers, only those who were never convicted of rape, child molestation or murder; whose third offense was a minor one, and who behaved well in prison.
Florida criminal attorneys are diligently watching the events in California unfold. Florida adopted the Three Strikes statute in 1999, along with Tennessee and Virginia. But the statute was never intended to punish petty criminals, only those who have committed serious crimes. It was never intended to make a misdemeanor into a felony, but that's essentially what it does. The Florida legislature has taken the discretion away from the judges and over 25,000 prisoners have been sentenced unfairly under this law.
If you are facing a third strike and are concerned about a life sentence, it is in your best interest to consult a criminal attorney immediately. Richard Tendler specializes in cases such as these and will build the best defense possible against this unfair statute that has come under scrutiny, and fire, in the past few years.