The three strikes law was introduced in the Violent Crime Control and Enforcement Act of 1994. If a felon receives three “strikes” on their criminal record for specific offenses, they spend the rest of their life incarcerated. They generally do not have the chance of parole.
The federal three strikes law mandates life imprisonment for felons who have received the following convictions:
- A “serious violent felony”
- Two or more at the federal or state level, with at least a “serious violent felony”
The other type of conviction that can result in triggering the three strikes law and its life sentence is a “serious drug offense.”
#1 Serious Drug Offenses
A “serious drug offense” typically involves any of the following:
- Continuing criminal enterprise
- Drug trafficking
- Violations of Title 21 concerning possession with the intent to distribute, manufacture, or distribution of controlled substances
Any equivalent offense in a given state can also qualify as a serious drug offense that may result in a three strikes law conviction.
#2 Serious Violent Felonies
Serious violent felony convictions play a central role in the three strikes law. A single conviction of this type can result in dire consequences, including multiple years in prison, substantial fines, and consequences for your personal and professional life. Any additional convictions for serious violent felonies get you closer to a lifetime of incarceration due to the federal three strikes law.
The following offenses qualify as serious violent felonies:
- Armed robbery
- Assault and battery
- Human trafficking
- Murder and manslaughter
- Rape and other sex offenses
- Any other violent offense that can result in 10 or more years in prison
Although the law excludes some felonies that do not threaten human life, such as unarmed robbery, the burden of proof that the crime did not involve the use of a dangerous weapon or any threat of bodily injury or death rests on the defendant. As such those other felonies may count as strikes unless the defendant is able to establish beyond any reasonable doubt that those situations did not endanger anyone.
#3 Massachusetts and Other States Have Three Strikes Laws
Massachusetts is one of the states that has its own three strikes laws in addition to the federal statutes. The state-level bill was signed into law in 2012. If someone receives a third conviction for a violent felony, they must serve the complete maximum sentence required for that crime with no opportunity for parole. Between the law at both Massachusetts and federal levels, a third conviction typically results in a lifetime prison sentence.
In certain cases of a third-offense prosecution, there may be no judicial discretion available when it comes to sentencing.
#4 A Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Protect Your Rights
If you are facing any charges at the state or federal level, especially for a felony, you should hire a reputable criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Trying to defend yourself is a risky idea under any circumstances, especially if facing felony accusations and/or charges at the federal level. Federal prosecutors have extensive resources to conduct their investigation. Prosecutors can also aim to intimidate a defendant into acknowledging responsibility for the alleged offense regardless of whether they had committed it.
At Brad Bailey Law, our nationally renowned criminal defense lawyers can help you fight for your future and protect your interests no matter how severe the accusations are. With over 300 federal cases handled and more than 35 years of professional experience, we can represent you throughout the judicial process and stand up for your rights.
Brad Bailey Law has extensive knowledge of the three strikes law and can help you build your criminal defense in the greater Boston area. Contact us today at (617) 500-0252 to schedule a consultation.