About | HeinOnline Law Journal Library | HeinOnline Law Journal Library | HeinOnline

32 McGeorge L. Rev. 1 (2000-2001)
California's Three Strikes Law: History, Expectations, Consequences

handle is hein.journals/mcglr32 and id is 11 raw text is: Essays

California's Three Strikes Law: History, Expectations,
James A. Ardaiz*
By 1993, California's crime rate had climbed to epic proportions. Serious and
violent crimes had reached levels that concerned every citizen. It was clear that
action needed to be taken. A violent crime in Fresno, California begat an effort to
find a solution.' This effort produced California's Three Strikes Law.2 Without
question, Three Strikes is a tough sentencing law, but the Penal Code is full of laws
that have tough sentences. Three Strikes was intended to go beyond simply making
sentences tougher. It was intended to be a focused effort to create a sentencing
policy that would use the judicial system to reduce serious and violent crime.
Much of the debate surrounding Three Strikes fails to address the true purpose
and rationale of the law. The Three Strikes Law, like so many other laws, sprang
from tragedy-the senseless killing of a young woman and the promise of her father
before she died. Unlike many such promises, this one was kept, but contrary to
some views, not with a vengeance. In fact, when Mike Reynolds approached me, I
expected him to be vengeful, angry and irrational with grief. This was not the man
I saw, and it was not the man others close to him saw. What I saw was a man who
had decided to make something positive happen to ensure that others would not
experience his grief. He approached his objective, not by simply assuming an
answer, but by trying to understand an entire system of punishment. In trying to
reach that understanding, he gathered people who were involved in the criminal
justice system and asked if it was working, and if so, why, and if not, why not.
My initial reaction was sympathetic but candid: No, it is not perfect, but it is
better than the alternative. His next question was What can be done to fix it? My
question became What is it you want to fix? His response was that we needed to
reduce crime, especially serious and violent crime. This became the starting point
of what became a revolution in the system and a source of continuing controversy.
*   Presiding Justice, Fifth Appellate District of California. J.D., University of California, Hastings College
of Law, 1974; B.A., California State University, Fresno, 1970.
1. See Dan Morain, A Father's Bittersweet Crusade, L.A. TIMES, Mar. 7, 1994, at Al.
2. California's Penal Code contains two nearly identical provisions collectively referred to as Three Strikes
Law. See CAL. PENAL CODE §§ 667, 1170.12 (West 1999 & Supp. 2000).
3. See Morain, supra note 1; George Skelton, A Father's Crusade Born from Pain, L.A. TIMES, Dec. 9,
1993, at A3.

What Is HeinOnline?

HeinOnline is a subscription-based resource containing thousands of academic and legal journals from inception; complete coverage of government documents such as U.S. Statutes at Large, U.S. Code, Federal Register, Code of Federal Regulations, U.S. Reports, and much more. Documents are image-based, fully searchable PDFs with the authority of print combined with the accessibility of a user-friendly and powerful database. For more information, request a quote or trial for your organization below.

Short-term subscription options include 24 hours, 48 hours, or 1 week to HeinOnline.

Contact us for annual subscription options:

Already a HeinOnline Subscriber?

profiles profiles most