What is the Three Strikes Law and Does Every State Use It?


What is the Three Strikes Law and Does Every State Use It?

The three strikes law employs the baseball adage “three strikes and you’re out”, but to legal matters. When applied to criminality, it basically means that harsher punishments are given to those who commit the same offense three times or more. Usually, these are state laws, so they vary, but many of them work in similar ways and have the same kinds of requirements and features. Not every state uses the three strikes law, but here are some general features of three strikes laws for those states that do use them.

Which States Use Them?

Not every state uses three strikes laws. As of this writing, there are only 28 states that use these laws. However, laws are always changing, so be sure to check with your state to see if they have added or altered their policies. That being said, here are the states who currently have three strikes laws.

●     Arizona

●     Arkansas

●     California

●     Colorado

●     Connecticut

●     Florida

●     Georgia

●     Indiana

●     Kansas

●     Louisiana

●     Maryland

●     Massachusetts

●     Missouri

●     Nevada

●     New Hampshire

●     New Jersey

●     New Mexico

●     North Carolina

●     North Dakota

●     Pennsylvania

●     South Carolina

●     Tennessee

●     Texas

●     Utah

●     Vermont

●     Virginia

●     Washington

●     Wisconsin

Varying Laws

As mentioned above, the Three Strikes Law varies from state to state. One way in which the law varies is how long between felonies you have. In other words, some states will say it’s a second strike if you committed the last felony within ten years while others will say within five years. Another variance is the order in which you committed the crimes. Similarly, some states consider certain acts as felonies while other states might see the same act as a misdemeanor.

Most Severe Three Strikes Laws

The most severe Three Strikes Law used to be in California. However, Proposition 36 passed in 2000 which loosened the laws. Now, you can only get a life sentence on your third felony. Also, the law used to be retroactive, but it’s not anymore. Georgia and Tennessee also have tough Three Strikes laws If you’re convicted of two serious or violent crimes, the third will land you a life sentence, even if they aren’t felonies. The least severe Three Strikes law exists in New Hampshire After your third offense you only get 30 years, not a life sentence.

Why Have Three Strikes Laws?

The reason for the various three strikes laws is to minimize the threat of repeat offenses. Additionally, lawmakers believe that giving people only three chances means that repeat offenders will be taken off the streets, thus making them a safer place. Most lawmakers also believe that three strikes laws lower the risk of re-offense. In theory, all of these things are true, but there are limitations.

Limitations of Three Strikes Laws

Sometimes, the punishments aren’t proportional to the crimes. There have been some cases in which the person convicted did commit the same felony three times, but it was a nonviolent felony such as a drug-related charge. Many lawmakers believe that three strikes laws should only apply to violent offenders, since they pose the greatest threat to society. Finally, there is ambiguity in the law. There are so-called “wobbler laws”, which can be seen as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on who’s looking at the case. This can lead to the unfortunate situation where committing a crime in one state will get you convicted of a misdemeanor, but if you commit that same crime in another state you will be a felon.

Never try to brave the legal system alone. If you’ve been convicted of any crime, it’s important to hire a defense attorney. Serious consequences exist if you’re facing down your third strike, but even if it’s your first, you don’t want that on your record. It’s critical that you hire an experienced defense attorney in your state. Get started today and fight for your rights.


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