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What to Know About Virginia's Three Strikes Law

Understanding the Three Strikes Law

Virginia's three strikes law, also known as the habitual offender law, is designed to impose harsher penalties on individuals who have been convicted of multiple violent crimes. The law mandates life imprisonment for offenders convicted of three separate, serious felony offenses.

These felonies typically include violent crimes such as:

Critical Aspects of Virginia's Three Strikes Law

It is important to note that not all felonies qualify under this law; only those deemed particularly severe are considered "strikes." The alleged aim of the law is to remove habitual offenders from society to enhance public safety and deter those who already have strikes against them from re-offending.

Three key factors to understand under the Three Strikes Law are as follows:

  1. Qualifying offenses: Not every felony is a strike under Virginia's three strikes law. The offenses must be severe, often involving violence or the threat of violence as outlined in the abovementioned statute.
  2. Separate incidents: The three strikes must be separate incidents, not multiple charges from a single criminal event.
  3. Mandatory sentencing: Upon a third strike conviction, judges have limited discretion and are generally required to impose a life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Out-of-State Convictions & the Three Strikes Law

It's crucial to recognize that Virginia's Three Strikes Law does not exclusively apply to convictions obtained within the Commonwealth. Under this stringent policy, prior convictions can also include those handed down by courts in other states or under federal jurisdiction, provided these offenses are "substantially similar" to the qualifying violent felonies defined by Virginia law.

Specifically, if the out-of-state or federal offense would be classified as a felony if it were committed in Virginia, it may count as a strike.

This means that those labeled by the state as habitual offenders who have a history of serious violent crimes, regardless of where these crimes occurred, can still face mandatory life imprisonment under Virginia's Three Strikes Law.

How the Three Strikes Law Affects Criminal Cases

The three strikes law significantly impacts how criminal cases are handled in Virginia. Given the strict mandatory sentencing guidelines, prosecutors may approach these cases differently, affecting whether plea deals are offered.

A strategic defense becomes even more paramount in cases involving a potential third strike against a defendant. Defense attorneys, like Andrew J. Cornick, Attorney at Law, often work rigorously to have charges reduced or dismissed, thereby avoiding a third strike and the consequent life sentence.

Criticism of the Three Strikes Law

The law has both supporters and critics. Proponents argue that it helps keep dangerous repeat offenders off the streets, thereby protecting public safety. Critics, however, contend that it can lead to disproportionate sentences. They argue that the law can sometimes result in unjust life sentences without the potential for rehabilitation and release. Additionally, detractors point to issues of prison overcrowding and the high cost associated with long-term incarceration.

What to Do If You Face Criminal Charges with Previous Convictions

Facing criminal charges is daunting, and the situation can become even more critical if you have prior convictions that may trigger Virginia's Three Strikes Law. If you are in this precarious position, the most crucial step you can take is to seek immediate legal representation from a seasoned attorney, like Andrew J. Cornick, Attorney at Law.

My firm can help you in several critical ways:

  • Informed assessment of your situation
  • Development of potential defense strategies
  • Representation in negotiating plea-deals
  • Advocacy in court should your case go to trial

Act Quickly and Proactively

When faced with a potential third strike, time is of the essence. The sooner you involve a qualified attorney, the better your chances are of mounting an effective defense. Do not wait; take immediate action to secure legal assistance. Send me a message online to schedule a consultation.