In 1994, California’s voters passed Proposition 184, which created the state’s “Three Strikes” sentencing system. The “Three Strikes Law” significantly increased the penalties for second and third serious or violent felony convictions. If a defendant has a prior strike and commits a second serious or violent felony, she can have her sentence doubled. And if a defendant has two prior strikes and commits a third serious or violent felony, she can be sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.
Just two years after Prop 184 passed, the California Supreme Court decided the case of People v. Romero. There, the Court held that trial courts could utilize their inherent power pursuant to Penal Code section 1385 to dismiss felony strikes “in the interests of justice.” Under Penal Code section 1385, a judge has the discretion to dismiss an action in the interests of justice. In Romero, the Court reasoned that because the California legislature had chosen not to prohibit trial courts from exercising their power to dismiss prior convictions to further the interests of justice, the courts were free to do so, even in cases involving felony strike convictions. The judge, however, must state her reasons for “striking the strike” in open court so that the court’s rationale becomes part of the official case record.
The Romero decision doesn’t provide the trial court with unfettered discretion, however. The trial court must examine several factors before granting a Romero motion. These factors include:
- The time elapsed since the last conviction;
- The defendant’s age at the time when the strike offense was committed;
- The facts and circumstances of his or her current offense;
- Whether the defendant’s prior convictions stemmed from a single incident or over a longer period;
- Whether the defendant served a single prison term for his two prior strikes or multiple sentences;
- Whether the defendant’s acknowledged his or her wrongdoing at an early stage of the process;
- The extent to which he or she cooperated with law enforcement officials;
- The defendant’s prior history of drug/alcohol addiction and/or mental illness; and
- The nature of the injuries the defendant inflicted on his or her victim(s).
HOW CAN A DEFENSE ATTORNEY HELP?
If you’re facing charges that could result in a potential second or third strike conviction, a San Diego criminal defense attorney can assist you in attempting to persuade the court to strike your prior strike(s). We have experience in drafting persuasive Romero motions to present your case to the court in the best possible light. Please contact us to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.