July 10, 2014

California Three Strikes Law

Since Proposition 36 was passed  by voters in November 2012, the harshness of California’s “Three Strikes Law” has been slightly reduced. The harshest consequences of the three strikes law were softened, and it is only possible to receive a sentence of 25-years-to-life as a repeat offender if the charged person’s third offense is deemed to be a “violent felony” or “serious felony”. However, a California court recently determined past offender Timothy Wayne Johnson to be a “third striker,” despite the fact that his third offense was not considered a “serious felony” at the time of his conviction. This means he was given a sentence with the harshness of “three strikes and you’re out” because his third offense became a “serious felony” years after his conviction.

The Unusual Circumstances of Timothy Wayne Johnson’s Case

Timothy Wayne Johnson’s case is unusual regarding the changes made to California’s Three Strikes Law for a couple of reasons. In 1998, Mr. Johnson was convicted of two counts of attempting to dissuade a witness in violation of section 136.1. At the time of his conviction, violating section 136.1 was not legally defined in California court as either a serious or violent felony on grounds of the Three Strike Law. In 1998, the old Three Strikes Law applied to any felony conviction, whether or not it was serious or violent. For this reason, Johnson was given third strike sentence and 28-years-to-life. Once the new third strikes law was passed in 2012, Johnson’s third offense would not have landed him a third strike sentence because his conviction was non-violent and not considered serious at the original time of his conviction. However, dissuading a witness was later added to section 1192.7’s serious felony list in 2010, which ended up ruling poorly in Johnson’s favor.

When Johnson tried to appeal his lengthy, third strike sentence, California court ruled to leave his sentence unchanged because under current law, dissuading a witness is a “serious felony,” and therefore would deserve a third strike sentence, regardless of the law at the time of his conviction. While the Third Strike Law in California has been adjusted to be less harsh on third time offenders who commit non-violent or non-serious felonies, Johnson did not benefit from the change in the third strike law due to the fact that the current list of serious felonies includes his crime.

Disclaimer: This article has been prepared and published for informational purposes only and is not offered, nor should be construed, as legal advice.