In 1994, California voters passed the three strike law, which required the first and second strike to be either violent or serious and any infraction thereafter would trigger a third strike and the life sentence that went with it. Since then, petty offenses have led to life imprisonment for thousands of Californians.
Proposition 36 revises the law to impose a life sentence only when the new felony conviction is serious or violent. The approval of Proposition 36 also entitles approximately 3,000 convicted felons who were serving life terms for a nonviolent third-strike crime, to apply for a new, reduced sentence. In those retroactive cases the sentence can only be reduced if a judge determines that the individual is no longer an unreasonable threat to public safety.