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California Third Strike Law May Be Unconstitutional

California Third Strike Law May Be Unconstitutional

Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney Robert M. Bernstein discusses an important court ruling which held that California's Third Strike Law may be unconstitutional in certain circumstances:

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit is the Federal appellate court for the entire western United States. In a recent ruling this December they held that a twenty eight year sentence imposed under the Three Strike Law was cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the United States Constitution.

Cecilio Gonzalez was convicted of a violation of California Penal Code section 290, failure to register annually as a sex offender within five days of his birthday. Since Mr. Gonzalez had two prior felony convictions, the California Trial Court found that this conviction was his "third Strike" under the law and sentenced Mr. Gonzalez to 28 years in prison. Gonzalez appealed his sentence in the California Court system where the Appellate court affirmed his sentence and let it stand. Gonzalez then appealed that ruling to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, where the Federal court found that the application of the Third Strike Law and the imposition of this sentence for failure to register as a sex offender was in violation of the Eight Amendment's ban against cruel and unusual punishment and therefore unconstitutional.

The Court ruled that the punishment was "grossly disproportionate to the offense and in violation of the United States Constitution. Although the Court did not rule that the law itself is unconstitutional, this acknowledgment that the third strike law may not be arbitrarily applied to simply any third felony criminal conviction is an important beginning to restricting this severe and draconian sentencing law.


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