Long Beach Criminal Attorney Discusses 3 Strikes Law

The 3 strikes law in California is often very harsh and sometimes results in very long and unjust sentences, particularly in sex cases.  Many Long Beach Criminal Defense Attorneys have argued the law is cruel and unusual therefore violating the Constitution.  Courts have shot this down in most cases.

In People v. Carmony (2005) 127 Cal.App.4th 1066 (Carmony II), the Third Appellate District concluded that a 25-year-to-life sentence under the Three Strikes law constituted cruel and/or unusual punishment as applied to a defendant whose triggering offense was the failure to update his registration within five days of his birthday. In Carmony II , the defendant had properly registered at a new address a month before his birthday, continued to reside at the same address, had remained in contact with his parole agent, and was arrested a month after his birthday after failing to re-register. The appellate court found that because the offense was the most “technical and harmless violation of the registration law we have seen,” the imposition of a 25-year-to-life sentence was grossly disproportionate to the gravity of the offense and therefore cruel and/or unusual punishment. In the present habeas proceeding, the Second Appellate District expressly disagreed with the appellate court in Carmony II and held that the punishment was constitutionally permissible. In light of the conflicting opinions, the Supreme Court granted review. The court agreed with the Second Appellate District that imposition of a 25-year-to-life sentence upon petitioner in this matter did not constitute cruel and unusual punishment. However, it also concluded that it did not need to and should not rest its holding upon a determination that Carmony II was wrongly decided. The conduct of the defendant in this case was distinguishable from the minor technical violation in Carmony II. Here, the triggering violation was neither harmless nor technical. The trial court found that the petitioner had never registered at his current address, and had intentionally refused to comply with registration requirements. Thus the conduct bore both a rational and substantial relationship to the anti-recidivist purposes of the Three Strikes law. Given that relationship in addition to the “heinous” nature of petitioner’s criminal history, the 25-year-to-life sentence did not constitute cruel and unusual punishment. (CCAP)

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