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One Strike Law

Penal Code 667.61 PC - California's "One-Strike" Law

Most Californians are familiar with the state's "Three Strikes" law, meaning that being convicted of three qualifying serious crimes results in an automatic sentencing enhancement of 25 years to life in prison.

However, in an effort to address the severity and impact of certain violent sex crimes in California, the state has also implemented what is commonly referred to as the "One-Strike" law, codified under Penal Code 667.61 PC.

Penal Code 667.61 PC - California's "One-Strike" Law
Penal Code 667.61 PC imposes harsh sentencing enhancements for certain sex crimes.

This legislation mandates significantly extended prison sentences for offenders convicted of specific sex crimes if aggravating factors are present.

If you're accused of one of these crimes with aggravating factors, you could be facing an automatic sentence of 15 years to life, or even 25 years to life, on your first offense.

A life-in-prison sentence is possible even if you have no prior criminal "strike" convictions. The one-strike crimes are severe and violent sex crimes that carry enhanced penalties because of the aggravating circumstances in which the crime was committed.

For example, suppose you are charged with Penal Code 288 PC lewd and lascivious act on a minor under 14. In that case, you could face a maximum punishment of up to eight years in state prison if convicted.

In contrast, suppose you are convicted of kidnapping the minor to commit the PC 288 offense. In that case, you now face up to life in prison because the lewd acts on the minor under 14 combined with the special circumstances of kidnapping qualify as a one-strike crime defined under Penal Code 667.61 PC.

In addition to the life-in-prison sentence after being convicted of a PC 667.61 crime, other penalties can include fines, restitution, sex offender registration, protective order, parole, civil lawsuit, loss of gun rights, and negative immigration consequences for non-citizens. To face a life sentence under the California one-strike law, you must have done the following:

  • Committed a sex crime listed under PC 667.61(c).
  • Committed one or more of the circumstances under PC 667.61(d) or
  • Committed two or more circumstances in PC 661.61(e).

What is the "One-Strike" Law?

The "One-Strike" law is designed to ensure that individuals convicted of particular sex crimes face rigorous sentencing without the possibility of early release or probation.

Under this law, the sentences are set to either 15 years to life or 25 years to life in state prison, depending on the crime's nature and specific aggravating factors.

Simply put, under PC 667.61, anyone convicted of specified sex crimes when certain aggravating factors are present will automatically receive an enhanced sentence of 15 years, 25 years, or life in state prison, depending on the crime combined with the aggravating circumstances.

What are the Eligible Crimes?

Several sex offenses fall under the purview of the "One-Strike" law, including but not limited to:

  • Rape (Penal Code 261 PC).
  • Rape by threats (Penal Code 261(a)(6)).
  • Rape in concert (Penal Code 264.1 PC).
  • Lewd or lascivious acts (Penal Code 288 PC).
  • Unlawful sexual penetration by force or fear (Penal Code 289 PC).
  • Continuous sexual abuse of a child (Penal Code 288.5 PC).
  • Sodomy (Penal Code 286 PC).
  • Oral copulation with a minor (Penal Code 287 PC).
  • Mayhem in sex crime (Penal Code 205 and 206 PC).
  • Great bodily injury during sex crime (Penal Code 12022.53 PC).
  • Sex crime committed during a burglary (Penal Code 460(a).

The related statutes under this law include Penal Code 12022.53 PC 10-20-life, the use a gun and you're done law, and Penal Code 186.22 PC gang sentencing enhancement law.

What are Aggravating Factors That Enhance Sentencing?

While many of the above crimes carry serious penalties on their own, the "One-Strike" law automatically enhances these sentences to a minimum of 15 or 25 years if prosecutors can show that certain aggravating factors were present. Some of these factors include, but are not limited to:

  • Prior Convictions: Having been convicted for any of these qualifying sex crimes in the past, including similar convictions in other states or jurisdictions.
  • Kidnapping: If the defendant kidnaps the victim, substantially increasing the risk of harm.
  • Mayhem or Torture: Inflicting aggravated mayhem or torture on the victim or another person during the commission of the offense.
  • Committing Another Felony in the Process: For example, committing the offense during the course of a burglary with intent to commit another specified offense.
  • Committing Great Bodily Injury: If the defendant caused great bodily injury to the victim during the commission of the offense.
  • Bodily Harm Against a Minor Under 14: Causing bodily harm to the victim when the victim is under age 14.
  • Use of a Dangerous Weapon: Personally using a dangerous or deadly weapon to commission the offense.
  • Multiple Victims: Committing specified offenses against more than one victim.

What are Special Circumstances Leading to Life Without Parole?

Under PC 667.61, a separate special enhancement exists for some more serious crimes if the victim was under age 14 and the perpetrator was 18 or over at the time of the offense.

In these cases, the sentence is automatically extended to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. These provisions underscore the law's intent to protect the most vulnerable members of society by imposing the harshest penalties on those who commit severe crimes against minors.

What are the Defense Strategies?

Given the severe implications of the "One-Strike" law for those accused of eligible crimes, hiring a criminal defense attorney well-versed in California's criminal justice system is crucial.

A qualified attorney can provide invaluable guidance and defense strategies, potentially mitigating the outcome or disputing the applicability of the "One-Strike" law based on the specifics of the case.

Besides defense strategies designed to prove your innocence, an attorney may implement a number of strategies specifically designed to disprove or remove the aggravating factors that could lead to enhanced sentencing. These include:

  • Directly disputing the existence of aggravating factors: Providing evidence that refutes the additional circumstances that would qualify the crime as a "one-strike" offense.
  • False accusation: Demonstrating that you were falsely implicated in the crime or the aggravating factors through alibi evidence, mistaken identity, or other means.
  • Plea negotiations: Negotiating with prosecutors to drop the aggravating factors in exchange for a guilty plea on this or other offenses.

Contact our law firm for more information. Eisner Gorin LLP has offices in Los Angeles, CA.

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