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Revisiting the 3 Strikes Law- Which Crimes Count?

Posted by Steve Karimi | May 04, 2015 | 0 Comments

In 1993, Washington State was the first state in the nation to pass the ‘no-nonsense' “3 Strikes policy” to address repeat, criminal offenders. Since then, 28 states have passed that same policy (Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin), with Massachusetts being the latest state to adopt a 3 strikes law in 2012.

What Does “3 Strikes You're Out” Mean?

Habitual offender laws (3 Strikes) are statutes adopted by individual state legislatures to impose harsher sentences on those who have committed three or more felonies. In most states including Washington, this means a life sentence without the possibility of parole on the 3rd strike.

Since 1993, Washington has amended their 3 strikes law twice. In 1996, the state legislature broadened the definition of persistent offender to include “two strike” sex offenders (so one may receive a life sentence if convicted of two serious sexual crimes). Sexual strike crimes are listed in RCW 9.94A.030 and include 1st and 2nd degree rape. Then in 2008, the legislature passed SB 6184, which expanded the crimes that invoked the life imprisonment penalty to include any felony conviction in another state where there had been a finding of sexual motivation, if the minimum sentence imposed was over 10 years.

Adult felony sentencing in Washington is governed by the Sentencing Reform Act (SRA) of 1981, also codified in Chapter 9.94A of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW). In Washington, felony offenses are classified as Class A (most severe), Class B, and Class C (least severe). Class A felonies are punishable by a prison sentence of up to 20 years, even if it is your first offense. See RCW 9.94A.035. Class B felonies are punishable by a prison sentence of 8-20 years. Class C felonies are punishable by a prison sentence up to 8 years. To qualify under Washington's 3 Strikes law, a criminal must be convicted as an adult on three separate occasions for serious felony crimes, including:

  • Rape (only 2 strikes needed)
  • Robbery/theft
  • Child molestation
  • Felony assault
  • Felony drug charges
  • Manslaughter or murder.

A conviction of a 1st felony counts as “one strike,” and the statute does not make a distinction in the amount of time between "strikes." Crime sprees, regardless of the number of offenses, only count as one strike.

Let My Extensive Experience as a Former Prosecutor Work For You."

Some crimes are “wobblers,” meaning they can be either a misdemeanor or a felony (ie. robbery/theft). This means having an attorney who will fight for plea down to a misdemeanor is critical for your freedom. Criminal defense attorney Steve Karimi is dedicated to protecting the freedom, constitutional rights, and reputation of each of his clients. As a former prosecutor for the state of Washington, he is familiar with the administrative and prosecutorial processes and will seek a compromise where possible. He will handle everything in your case with detail and zeal, including all steps necessary to build your defense, and to keep you out of jail. He specializes in all misdemeanor and felony cases. Contact Snohomish and King County criminal defense attorney Steve Karimi today. We look forward to providing you with superior criminal defense representation.

About the Author

Steve Karimi

Steve Karimi attended Pepperdine University School of Law. After graduation he worked as a prosecutor in Seattle where he gained valuable insight to the criminal justice system. Attorney Karimi uses his experiences as a prosecutor everyday only now he fights for the justice of those accused.


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Named a "rising star" in criminal defense by Washington Law and Politics magazine, Mr. Karimi is a former prosecutor for King County who uses his insight into prosecution strategies to protect his clients' rights in criminal court.