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An Opinion Piece On California's Three Strikes Law.

897 words - 4 pages

In 1994, California passed its infamous Three Strikes law after a twice-convicted kidnapper on parole kidnapped and murdered a 12 year old girl. The law has been under scrutiny ever since. Essentially, the law states that any person convicted of the same felony three times will automatically receive a 25 year to life prison term. Obviously, this can cause a lot of debate - With kidnapping and murder, of course it should apply, but in one man's case, after stealing $153.54 worth of videos, he was sentenced to 25 years or more in prison. So is it constitutional? You be the judge.Leandro Andrade, a 37 year old man from San Bernadino County, was convicted of possession of marijuana and a few petty thefts in 1983. Then, in 1995, he was convicted twice of shoplifting, usually a misdemeanor offence. Prosecutors cited his prior offences, and got his two most recent shoplifting counts bumped up to felonies, which then counted as his third and fourth strikes. He was sentenced to 25 years to life, and appealed his sentence. In April 2002, the law was taken in front of the supreme court, who over turned his sentence, deeming it to be cruel and unusual punishment for such a crime.They ruled that the severity of the crime didn't merit the tough and severe punishment. This sparked the Supreme Court to analyze the law itself. The court may remove California's use of minor theft or drug possession as a felony and thus as one strike. Two times in the past few months, cases involving the three strikes law have made it to the Supreme Court, and have been overruled.The major debate of this law is over the 8th amendment - Cruel and Unusual punishment. Everyone involved with cases of this magnitude is forced to, at some point or another, ask themselves this question: Does the crime merit the punishment? Especially in the case of Mr. Andrade, people have been questioning the ferocity of the punishment. Life in prison for three charges of auto theft or even shoplifting? It doesn't seem like the question alone makes sense. How can one knowingly give the same charge to a murderer that they give to a shoplifter?In most other states, shop lifting is a misdemeanor, which calls for a fine or a small amount of prison time, no more than 6 months. Unfortunately, due to this law, many prosecutors in California have tried successfully to turn drug possession and shop lifting into full felonies, so that they count as strikes. The problem with all of this is that now, more so than ever, there are...

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