What is “Three Strikes” Law?
“Three strikes” laws are criminal sentencing schemes focused at deterring repeat offenders. First prominent in the 1990s, these sentencing enhancements often call for minimum sentences ranging from 25 years to life in prison. Many states and the federal government have versions of these laws. Supporters argue that higher sentences deter repeat offenders from committing other, often violent, crimes.
Opponents argue that it is not an effective way of reducing crime. They claim that the law is unduly harsh and fails to account for the unique circumstances of each case. Furthermore, they contend that keeping nonviolent offenders in prison for life is costly to taxpayers. The increased punishment has resulted in a considerable rise in the jail population, putting a burden on government resources. Furthermore, many people have been sentenced to life in prison for arguably minor offenses like drug possession or theft. Critics contend that this is a waste of money that should be spent on rehabilitation programs and other crime-prevention initiatives.
Another issue leveled against three strikes laws is that it has resulted in racial inequities in the criminal justice system. According to studies, the law disproportionately affects minority groups, with African Americans and Latinos accounting for a substantial percentage of people sentenced to life in prison under these provisions.
Texas’s version of the “three strikes law” is based on sentencing enhancements. First-, second-, and third-degree felonies can be enhanced with prior convictions that resulted in a prison sentence. Two consecutive prison sentences are required to trigger the “habitual offender” enhancement in Texas, which increases the range of punishment to a minimum of 25 years and a maximum of 99 years or life. For example, a person charged with third-degree possession of a controlled substance, with prior convictions for burglary of a habitation and certain theft offenses, may be facing a habitual offender enhancement.
One prior prison sentence as outlined above triggers the “repeat offender” enhancement, which increases the punishment range one level. A third degree is now in the second-degree punishment range and a second in the first degree range. First degree felonies now have a minimum of 15 years and a maximum of 99 years or life.
Proper notice must be given to a criminal defendant of the state’s intent to prove an enhancement. The government may later waive the enhancement pursuant to a plea bargain. A defendant may plead true or not true at trial. If there is a plea of not true, the government must prove the prior conviction and the factfinder (typically the judge or jury) must find it true to sentence in the higher range.
Hire an Experienced Dallas-Fort Worth DUI Criminal Defense Lawyer Today
To find out how your prior convictions will impact your current charge, consult an experienced criminal defense attorney. The criminal defense attorneys at the Cofer Luster Law Firm can advise you regarding your range of punishment, what is required for the government to prove the enhancement, and advocate for a favorable resolution in your case. You can contact us online or by calling 682-777-3336.