In California, there are thousands of people serving life sentences—many without any chance of parole. Luckily, Proposition 36 is giving new hope to hundreds of men and women in California who are serving life sentences for non-violent, non-serious felonies.
California’s infamous Three Strikes sentencing law was enacted six years before the turn of the 21st Century as a way to enhance penalties against anyone with two or more felony convictions. The statute didn't take into account whether or not your crime was violent or non-violent, yesterday or 20 years ago, or for stealing with the intent to feed your family or build a multi-national criminal operation. The law mandated any defendant convicted of his or her second felony to be sent to prison not just for the amount of time prescribed by sentencing guidelines, but for two-times what a first-time offender would have gotten. For those convicted of a third felony, the consequences were even more dire: life in prison.
What seemed like a good way to reduce crime committed by repeat felons quickly proved unpopular. Thousands of men and women convicted for minor, non-violent felonies such as shoplifting or simple drug possession—many suffering from drug and alcohol addiction—were having their hopes, dreams and futures taken from them without any chance of freedom, or at the very least redemption.
In 2012, voters in California came out in droves to change the law when they overwhelmingly approved Proposition 36.
The provision, which garnered 68 percent support among voters, changed the law so that defendants receiving their third felony would have hope. Instead of mandatory life-in-prison sentences, they faced sentences of 25 years to life—if their third felony was not deemed to be “ serious” or “ violent.”
Proposition 36 also gave “ third strike” defendants already serving life sentences a chance at redemption. Under the revised statute, they are now able to petition the court for a sentence reduction—but only if they would have been eligible for “ second strike” sentencing under the new law.
Today, non-violent defendants who find themselves caught up in a law designed to punish serial murders, rapists and big-time drug dealers are connecting with attorneys in Los Angeles—and being released from prison.
Proposition 36 for people convicted of drug charges
Proposition 36 is part of the California Penal Code 1210 and 1210.1, which allows people convicted of non-violent drug-related felonies to be sentenced to treatment or rehabilitation programs rather than time in prison.
The goal of the statute is to divert people away from prison and into programs where they can get help for their chemical abuse issues, keeping them out of the penal system and allowing them to get their lives back on track.
If you are convicted and sentenced to a court-approved drug treatment program, you can expect to participate in:
- drug education classes
- outpatient or residential treatment services including counseling and therapy
- detoxification procedures or even narcotic replacement therapy
- ongoing follow-up treatment and services.
To be eligible for diversion sentencing under Proposition 36, you must have been convicted for either being in possession of a controlled substance while committing a felony or being under the influence of a controlled substance when you committed the felony.
If you have been convicted of your second felony and you were either in possession of drugs or on drugs, an experienced lawyer may be able to help you use Proposition 36 to apply for re-sentencing.
Proposition 36 for non-violent offenders currently in prison
Prior to 2012, when voters made their voices heard and Proposition 36 was amended, hundreds of men and women were sentenced to life in prison for non-violent felonies.
Today, many of these men and women may be eligible for re-sentencing. This reform may be applied retroactively. If you or someone you love is currently serving a 25-to-life sentence under previous Three Strikes law guidelines, he or she should talk to a Los Angeles attorney if:
- you are currently serving a life sentence under the Golden State's Three Strikes law sentencing requirements from the past
- your current offense does not include a large amount of drugs, which falls under Safety Code section 11370.4 or 11379.8
- your conviction isn’t for unlawful intercourse, which is commonly described as having sex with a minor, or spousal rape, which is covered under section 262
- you will not be mandated to register as a sex offender
- your crime did not involve the use of a firearm.
In addition, your previous convictions must not:
- include a “ sexually violent offense,” which are listed in California's Welfare & Institutions Code section 6600
- include oral copulation, sodomy or sexual penetration with a child who is less than 14 years old but older than 10
- include lewd or lascivious acts--such as fondling, touching genital areas or kissing--involving a child under 14
- include murder
- include assault with a machine gun on a police officer or firefighter
- include possession of a weapon of mass destruction
- include any serious or violent felony currently punishable by life in prison or death.
How to appeal for re-sentencing
The rights of you or your loved one to appeal for re-sentencing is covered under California Penal Code 1170.126—but you will likely need an experienced attorney to assist you in your efforts.
There are no guarantees and re-sentencing is not automatic.
An experienced attorney can help you file the petition, make your case and ensure that your rights and best interests are protected throughout the entire process.
If you think you qualify for re-sentencing under Proposition 36, contact Jeff Voll at 323-467-6400 today for a free consultation—and give yourself hope for a brighter tomorrow.