Two Prior Convictions Out of Single Act Cannot Constitute Two Separate Strikes
In People v. Vargas, 59 Cal. 4th 635 (2014), the California Supreme Court has recently ruled that two charges which arise out of the same act against the same victim cannot constitute two separate strikes. Previously, a defendant could earn two or more strikes in one case for a single act thus qualifying him or her for a Three Strikes life sentence. For example, if a defendant committed a single robbery with a gun he or she could earn a strike conviction for robbery and assault with a deadly weapon ie the same act resulted in two separate strikes. If this defendant committed a later serious or violent felony, he or she would qualify for three strikes treatment even though it was only a second offense.
This new ruling greatly alters the landscape for plea negotiations. Previously, a prosecutor would have great leverage towards negotiating a plea by offering to dismiss one charge in lieu of a plea to another. A defendant would often take such a deal, regardless of the strength of the evidence, to keep themselves away from the Three Strikes sentencing scheme. Cases now will have to be negotiated on the strength or weakness of the evidence instead of fear of the Three Strikes Law.
This new ruling is so significant that the Court advised attorneys to review both present and past cases to determine if action is warranted in light of the change in the law.
If you know someone who is currently facing charges in Redwood City, San Mateo County, Palo Alto or the Greater Bay Area which could potentially qualify under the Three Strikes law, contact The Law Offices of Ross Green for a free consultation.