What are Three Strikes Laws?
Three Strikes laws are legislation enacted by many states that target repeat offenders. After three separate felony convictions, or “strikes,” convicts are “kicked out” of society – that is, they’re sent to jail for life.
The purpose behind these laws is that those who repeatedly commit felonies likely pose a serious threat to society and should be imprisoned for the greater good.
Many Three Strikes laws count only violent or serious crimes for the first two strikes, but have a much lower threshold for the third. Any felony, such as shoplifting or forgery, may be counted as strike three and produce a sentence of 25 years to life.
Under the federal Three Strikes rule, now codified at 18 U.S.C. § 3559(c), the defendant receives mandatory life imprisonment if he or she:
- Is convicted in federal court of a serious violent felony; and
- Has two or more prior convictions in federal or state courts, where at least one of which is a serious violent felony. The other prior offense may be a serious drug offense.
Under the statute, a serious violent felony includes murder, manslaughter, sex offenses, kidnapping, robbery, and any offense punishable by 10 years or more which includes as an element the use of force or that, by its nature, involves a significant risk of force. The statute also enumerates certain non-qualifying felonies, including unarmed robbery offenses and arsons that posed no threat to human life.
Getting Arrested Does Not Mean You Are Guilty