In November, 2012, California softened its three-strikes sentencing law. The law had received harsh criticism from justice advocacy groups and from criminal defense lawyers for sending individuals to jail for life for committing minor crimes. Individuals faced life sentencing for felony crimes as small as shoplifting or passing a bad check. The New York Times reported that the former law targeted black and mentally ill offenders and drove up prison costs. In 2012, the law was revised to apply only when the offenses were serious or violent. The law gave the courts authority to re-sentence those who faced draconian lifetime terms for small felony crimes. In light of the changes, public defenders were required to contact inmates who qualified for resentencing.

According to the Judicial Council of California, individuals who were serving sentences that could be changed under the new law had to petition the court for resentencing, a process which could be time-consuming and often would require the assistance of a criminal defense law firm like, due to the technicalities of the law.

The New York Times investigated the individuals most likely to suffer under California’s three-strikes policies. According to the investigation, the mentally ill comprise about one-sixth of the prison population. In many cases, these individuals do not have the ability to speak in their own defense. They often cannot afford the attentive skilled representation of a criminal defense lawyer and instead are represented by public defenders who may not inform the courts (or even be aware of) their clients’ mental illness.

Under the former system, individuals whose crimes involved receiving stolen property, or committing small burglaries were once subject to California’s three strikes law. Despite the fact that California softened its three-strikes law, it can still be very difficult for individuals to receive the justice they deserve.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the public is currently in the process of collecting signatures to change the three-strikes law once again. Proposed changes would drop the penalties for convictions before 1994 and would disqualify criminal threats and burglary of empty buildings from counting as a “strike.” The law would also make it easier for individuals who were unfairly sentenced to petition the courts for re-sentencing and release. The proposal would also ensure that offenders won’t receive multiple strikes for just one case.

The reality is that despite reform, individuals who face current three-strikes charges have much at stake. Not only can a conviction affect their current sentencing, but if they are convicted, the conviction may be used against them later if they are found guilty of another crime. Those who cannot afford a qualified criminal defense lawyer in Redlands, California will be appointed a public defender. However, many public defenders are over-worked. The result is that individuals may plead guilty to crimes they may have not committed in order to avoid harsher sentencing.

Yet, for an individual facing a three-strikes conviction, a guilty plea can have an immense impact on your life—not just now, but down the line. If you’re facing a three-strikes conviction, it may be prudent to speak to a criminal defense law firm like Eric D. Anderson Law Ltd who can take the time to carefully review your case and make sure that you are justly treated under the law.