The proliferation of three-strikes laws, in which three felony convictions can land you in prison for a long time, means that getting that third charge can be a frightening time for you and your family. The idea behind three strikes is that, if you're still committing felonies even after you've been in prison twice on long sentences, then you're likely not going to stop committing crimes and need to be locked up. When you head to court, you won't get a lot of sympathy from the jury -- unless you have a good case showing you didn't commit the crime, or there is more going on than the police realized. Regardless, a third-strike charge is not something you can brush off, and you need a criminal defense lawyer to help you navigate what can be a confusing maze of requirements and exceptions.
Laws Vary Between States
You need to know that laws vary between states. California's three-strikes law is different from Arizona's, which is different from Texas', and so on. In some cases, the variation works in your favor. For example, let's say you're from Texas and have been living in California, where you were convicted of two felonies. If your third felony is not violent, the three-strikes law might not apply.
Strikes in Other States May Count Against You
Strikes in other states can count against you if those crimes would have been considered strikes in your new state. For example, if you were convicted of a felony in Kansas and another felony in Massachusetts, and both of those felonies would have been strike-worthy felonies in California, then being charged with a violent felony in California means you could be facing your third strike.
Getting the Court to Charge You With a Misdemeanor Is Critical
One thing the laws have in common is that they are for felony convictions. Misdemeanors don't trigger the third-strike law. This means that, if the court has the option of charging you either way, you need a good criminal defense lawyer to do whatever possible to get the court to charge you with a misdemeanor. Even a misdemeanor conviction is better than facing a felony charge.
Three-strikes laws have their purpose, and they can be tough to beat. If you're facing a third-strike charge, meet with a criminal defense lawyer immediately. Do not wait on this and hope it will go away -- meet it head-on with the help of a lawyer.