The courts have generally upheld California's Three Strikes Law as constitutional. However, there are times when its application constitutes “cruel and unusual” punishment which is unconstitutional. Fortunately, when this is the case, the law provides a remedy…you can appeal a California “Three Strikes” sentence.
California's “Three Strikes” law was originally designed to keep habitual, violent criminals behind bars. The law significantly enhances prison sentences for individuals who commit serious or violent felonies. Once an individual has committed two of these offenses, he/she faces a mandatory 25-years-to-life in prison for committing any felony…even if that third felony isn't classified as serious or violent.
Hypothetically speaking, this means that someone who has committed two serious felonies who goes on to steal some medicine for his sick child…medicine which he cannot otherwise afford…could be imprisoned for life. Clearly, this type of situation qualifies as cruel and unusual punishment. And if this fictional character was sentenced to 25-years-to-life based on this offense, he could appeal his California “Three Strikes” sentence.
The fact is that this hypothetical situation is not all that uncommon with respect to “Three Strikes” sentences. And thankfully, the courts are beginning to recognize how cruel and unusual this sentencing scheme actually is.
If you or a loved one has been unfairly sentenced under this problematic and oftentimes unconstitutional law, you should immediately consult with a California appellate attorney about appealing the California “Three Strikes” sentence. Also read our article about federal appeals v. state appeals in California.