Golden Gate University Law Review


Rebecca Gross


We watch enthralled as television news programs sensationalize some of the saddest moments of our reality. We are shocked by the violence and brutality of those who prey on the innocent and vulnerable. We become both enraged and frightened as we realize that there are people among us who have no regard for human life. In the wake of tragedy, we furiously search for answers, we seek ways to avoid suffering the same pain in the future and, often, we sacrifice the rights of many, believing that such a sacrifice is necessary and justified. A prime example of this reaction is California's anti-recidivist legislation known colloquially as "three strikes and you're out." This comment tracks an occurrence of this vicious cycle in California. Part I explains how the fear of crime as well as frustration with repeat offenders and the revolving door of the criminal justice system rose to an all-time high and contributed to the development of California's Three Strikes Law. This section also explores how the California Supreme Court has interpreted and attempted to refine the Three Strikes' Law and specifically how the Court addressed the issue of judicial discretion in sentencing under the Three Strikes Law. Additionally, this section addresses the United States Supreme Court's analysis of what type of sentence violates a defendant's constitutional rights. Part II describes how California's lower courts have refused to employ judicial discretion. Part III shows why the application of the law, even with court-attempted refinement, is constitutionally flawed and may also be ineffective as a measure to prevent violent crime. Part IV explores the latest rulings from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal regarding the constitutionality of California's Three Strikes Law. This Part also suggests a solution to balance the citizens' desire for a workable recidivist statute with the need to keep criminal punishment in California both fair and constitutional.

Included in

Criminal Law Commons