The three strikes law is one of the best-known laws in California. Since 1994, individuals in the state who have been convicted of three felonies are given a mandatory sentence that ranges from 25 years to life in prison. The law was amended in 2012 to be slightly more lenient, making only convictions of “serious” or “violent” crimes count as a strike.
While DUIs are typically misdemeanors, they will sometimes register as a strike against a convicted individual. If you are facing a DUI and are concerned that this charge may result in a strike against your record, it is vitally important you contact a skilled DUI lawyer. A leading DUI attorney can assess your case and help you understand your defense options.
DUI as a Felony
In many cases, DUIs are charged as misdemeanors. California treats these as less serious but still comes with harsh penalties. This may include $1,000 in fines, mandatory DUI school, and time in a local jail.
A misdemeanor DUI offense is typically one in which:
- You have two or fewer previous DUI charges
- No one was seriously injured by you while you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol
You may be charged with a DUI as a felony offense if you have three previous DUI convictions or if someone was injured by your driving. Felony DUI offenses may have fines and fees greater than $1,000, revocation of your license, and a prison sentence in state prison. Depending on the circumstances, a felony DUI may trigger the three strikes law.
Felony DUIs and the Three Strikes Law
While the original 1994 version of the law had any felony conviction count as a strike towards the harsh mandatory sentencing, the 2012 revision of the three strikes law has redefined what counts as a strike. According to the revised law, only a “serious” offense as defined by California Penal Code 1192.7 counts as a strike. It enumerates a number of crimes, including:
The law does not explicitly name felony DUI as an offense worthy of a strike against your record. However, the law does make it clear that other, unnamed offenses may warrant a strike against an individual. In particular, the law specifies that violent offenses or those which result in serious or fatal injuries can be counted as a strike.
Under California’s three strike law, a felony DUI charge may count as a strike against you if your DUI involved a serious injury to another person. If someone was hurt or killed as a result of your DUI, even if you have no prior DUI convictions, you can receive a felony DUI charge and face a strike on your record.
If you have two strikes against you, a felony DUI charge could result in a prison sentence of 25 years to life.
Non-Violent DUIs Can Sometimes Count Too
While the law typically requires that a felony DUI must have resulted in a serious or fatal injury to an individual, there are some cases in which a “simple” DUI may count as well. If you have a “serious” DUI on your record, such as a felony DUI manslaughter charge, the prosecution may seek to have a “simple” DUI count as a felony and a strike.
The upgrade to felony and a strike is a result of California’s harsh stance against repeat offenses and has withstood review from the California Supreme Court.
Who Does the Three Strikes Law Affect?
In general, the three strikes law is aimed at those who have been convicted of other serious offenses. For example, a person who is being charged with a felony, while already having one or more violent sentences, will face a longer jail sentence or punishment.
Overall, this ensures that those who acted wrongly are facing the proper punishment. The three strikes law has also eliminated serious sentences for those that committed non-serious crimes.
Along with the listed benefits, there are a few other common advantages for those who the three strikes law affects, including:
- Being a deterrent for crime: This law deters crime, especially for those who already hold other strikes against them, because of the serious charges one could face.
- The amount of felony arrests: The numbers here are reduced because of the serious sentencing that one can face if convicted multiple times.
- Serious punishments only applying to previous convictions: Because many convictions generally follow the rule, “innocent until proven guilty,” this law only applies to those that have been fully convicted. Meaning, that if you aren’t convicted of any crimes, you wont have previous strikes on your record and won’t be susceptible to more serious consequences.
How Do I Appeal a Three Strikes Conviction?
With the help and support of a skilled attorney, you might be able to appeal a conviction related to the three strikes law. Some lawyers can even reduce your sentence under the three strikes law in California.
Appealing a three strikes conviction could be important for one of two reasons:
- If convicted, your sentence might be reduced: This means that you could be immediately released from all charges, or some charges could be diminished.
- Some crimes that were once considered strikes, may not be recognized now: With the laws and regulations constantly changing, a crime that is precisely countered as a strike may not be looked at as all illegal now.
Defending Yourself Against a Felony DUI
If you’re facing a felony DUI charge, you should understand that it is possible to raise a strong defense against the charges. Even if you believe that the DUI charge could count against you as a strike under the three strikes law, you are entitled to a zealous defense.
Skilled DUI lawyers are frequently able to help individuals just like you reduce or eliminate felony DUI charges. Evidence that is found to be collected improperly can be excluded from the case against you.
Alternative explanations may make other evidence less convincing to a jury. These factors can result in a plea agreement with prosecution for a lesser charge or even the complete dismissal of the charges against you.
If you’re ready to see how an experienced DUI lawyer can help fight the DUI charges against you, use the form on the right or contact us to schedule a free consultation today!