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24 T. Jefferson L. Rev. 277 (2001-2002)
Three Strikes and You're in (For Life): An Analysis of the California Three Strikes Law as Applied to Convictions for Misdemeanor Conduct

handle is hein.journals/tjeflr24 and id is 283 raw text is: NOTES AND COMMENTS
Duane Silva was nobody's idea of a friendly neighbor. He
entertained himself by setting fire to trash barrels and even once
to the glove compartment of a car. His un-neighborly behavior
then escalated to theft. Upon being convicted of stealing a
neighbor's video camera and coin collection, a conviction which
would ordinarily entail only county jail time, Silva was sentenced
to prison for thirty years to life under California's Three Strikes
Law.' As preposterous as this may seem, California's criminal
justice system interprets the Three Strikes Law to mandate these
sentences, such that the majority of those sentenced under the
three strikes provisions are drug users and petty thieves.2 Al-
though Silva's behavior is certainly deplorable, is he the type of
criminal California's voters had in mind when they passed Pro-
position 184, or is he an example of a legal application that was
never contemplated by the populous?
Since its enactment in 1994, California's Three Strikes Law3
has been the subject of much controversy.4 Over the eight years
the law has been in place, the controversy has ranged from a
philosophical debate, which questioned its practicality and effec-
tiveness in reducing crime,5 to significant questions concerning its
1. See Eric Slater, Pizza Thief Receives Sentence of 25 Years to Life in Prison,
L.A. TIMES, Mar. 3, 1995, at B11.
2. See Carl Ingram, Serious Crime Falls in State's Major Cities, L.A. TIMES, Mar.
13, 1996, at A3 (citing a department of corrections study that indicates that 85% of
criminals sentenced under three strikes law were nonviolent); Patience Milrod, Im-
pact of Three Strikes Draws Praise, Criticism, FRESNo BEE, Jan. 21, 1996, at B7 (re-
porting that the overwhelming majority of three strikes sentences are the result of
nonviolent or non-serious crimes).
3. The earlier provision enacted by the legislature is codified at Cal. Penal Code
§ 667(b) through (i) (West 2002). The later provision, adopted by voter initiative, is
codified at § 1170.12.
4. Dan Bernstein, Democrats Jumping Off 3 Strikes Train, SACRAMENTo BEE,
July 18, 1996, at Al (reporting on the development of the three strikes law in Cali-
fornia's legislature).
5. See Janine DeFao, 'Three Strikes' Credited as Crime Hits 25-Year Low, SACRA-
MENTo BEE, July 2, 1996, at BI (reporting that California crime rates are the lowest
in 25 years; Attorney General Dan Lungren attributes the drop in large part to three

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