Committed Criminal Defense Team Focused On Your Freedom

Salinas Serious & Violent Felonies Attorney

What is California’s Three Strikes Law?

California’s Three Strikes law is a felony sentencing scheme that was enacted in 1994 and has quickly become one of the harshest habitual offender sentencing laws in the country. It was initially drafted to combat violent recidivism by providing for a mandatory life sentence for anyone convicted of any felony offense, if that person had previously been convicted of 2 or more “serious” or “violent” felonies, also known as “strikes”.

In addition, the law significantly increased sentences for anyone convicted of a felony, if that person had previously been convicted of at least one prior violent or serious felony. It created a complicated system of sentencing enhancements, plea bargaining and probation prohibitions, and sentencing credit limitations, requiring the assistance of a skilled legal practitioner.

Get started on your case with a free consultation. Contact the Law Offices of William V. Pernik today!

What is a “Strike”

Is a Felony a Strike?

A “strike” is defined as any felony offense that is either “violent” or “serious” under the law. A felony is considered “violent,” and therefore a “violent strike” if it falls into 1 of 23 categories listed in Penal Code section 667.5, subd.(c).

Similarly, a felony is considered “serious,” and therefore a “serious strike” if it falls under 1 of 42 categories listed in Penal Code section 1192.7, subd. (c). Depending on whether a strike is “violent” or “serious”, different credit limitations and enhancements may apply. Special rules apply to juvenile adjudications which may be used as “strike” priors under some circumstances, out-of-state convictions, and multiple strikes from a single court proceeding.

Common examples of strike offenses include: Arson, assault with a deadly weapon or where a victim sustained great bodily injury, residential burglary, robbery, rape, carjacking, criminal threats, dissuading a witness, substantive gang crimes, kidnapping, murder, mayhem, most felony sex offenses, and any felony where the defendant personally inflicted a great bodily injury, used a firearm in commission of the offense, or where the offense was committed for the benefit of the gang, to name a few.

Proposition 36

By 2012, the voters realized that contrary to the initial design, the Three Strikes law has resulted in massive incarcerations of largely nonviolent offenders, such as thieves, burglars, or drug addicts, disproportionately impacting minority defendants, exacerbating the overcrowding of the California prisons, and costing the taxpayers millions of dollars to care for a significant population of aging offenders who no longer posed a significant threat to the public.

Because of that, on November 26, 2012, California voters passed Proposition 36, under which a third offense will no longer trigger a 25-to-life sentence, unless that offense in itself is either a serious or violent felony. The new statute also established a mechanism under which defendants sentenced to life terms under the former regime could petition for resentencing and potential release.

Exceptions to Proposition 36

Even under the new Three Strikes law, there are a number of exceptions to the rule that the third, or qualifying, offense has to be a “serious” or “violent” felony in order for the mandatory life sentence to apply. For example, if the third criminal offense involved the manufacturing, transportation, possession, or sale of heroin, cocaine, or methamphetamine, the defendant could still receive the maximum three strikes penalty of life in prison.

In addition, felony sex offenses or most felonies that result in mandatory sex offender registration under Penal Code section 290 are also exempt, as well as any third offense in the commission of which the defendant used a firearm, was armed with a deadly weapon, or intended to cause great bodily injury.

The reform also created a new list of especially heinous offenses known as “super-strikes,” which is comprised primarily of violent sex offenses, sexual acts with children under 14, murder, manslaughter, or solicitation to commit murder, and any serious or violent felony, the maximum sentence for which could include life in prison or the death penalty.

Romero Motions

A “Romero motion” is a motion brought to the court, asking it to strike in furtherance of justice a prior strike allegation and sentence the defendant to less time in prison. In ruling on this motion, the courts consider factors such as 1) the circumstances and nature of the defendant’s present felony or felonies, 2) the defendant’s prior serious and/or violent felonies, 3) the particulars of the defendant’s prospects, character, and background.

Looking at the totality of these factors, judges make a decision as to whether the defendant should be deemed to be outside of the “spirit” of the “Three Strikes” law and therefore treated as though he had not been previously convicted of one or more prior strikes.

Don’t Compromise Your Future

Since the law in this area is complex and often changing, you need someone with experience and skill in handling these crimes. These cases go beyond simply presenting evidence of your innocence in court and asking questions of witnesses who come to testify against you. You need someone who understands the complexity of felony sentencing, has experience in crafting persuasive arguments to the court and the prosecution, and knows how to work around a prior strike conviction at sentencing, such as by carefully researching and drafting a compelling Romero motion in order to persuade the court to dismiss the prior strike enhancement.

Likewise, if you decide to go to trial on your case, you deserve to have the confidence that your attorney is an experienced trial lawyer who has understood and weighed all of the risks involved in your case and has fully advised you about them so that you could make the right legal decision. At Law Offices of William V. Pernik, you will be working with a seasoned defense advocate who has handled hundreds of serious and violent felony cases and has established a record of success in negotiating dismissals or reductions of strike charges, obtaining sentencing relief.

You will also have the benefit of legal advice from someone who has actually tried and won jury trials in many serious or violent felony cases, including assaults with deadly weapon or great bodily injury, domestic battery and other felonies with great bodily injury, criminal threats, residential burglary, armed robbery, rape, kidnapping, carjacking, and many others.

When charged with a serious or violent strike, hiring a lawyer as soon as possible can be vital to the strength of your case. Please contact our office for more information or to schedule an appointment.

Our firm serves the entire Monterey County, including the cities of Pacific Grove, Carmel, Monterey, Marina, Salinas, and accepts cases from nearby counties of San Benito and Santa Cruz. We also take selected cases from the San Francisco Bay Area upon request.

Please contact our criminal defense attorneys in Salinas for a free and confidential consultation at (831) 273-3152. Experienced representation is just a phone call away.

The Opinions That Matter

See What Our Client Have To Say
  • “Mr. Pernik has so much compassion for his clients, his integrity is beyond approach.”

    Jacqueline W.

  • “If you want solid representation from someone who is non-judgmental and has your back, look no further.”

    Annia R.

  • “They took care of me all the way through my conviction, he was even able to extend my surrender date without any hesitations.”

    Yolanda L.

  • “Not only did he fight for the best outcome for me, but he also was available to answer my questions 24-7. I felt very protected and calm when Mr. Pernik would enter the court room”

    Avvo Reviewer

  • “I found myself in a very tough situation and Mr. Pernik first of all was straight forward with me he was honest and all around very knowledgeable on what to do in regards to my case. He offered me peace of mind and got me through a very tough stage”


  • “I highly recommend Mr. Pernick. He is extremely knowledgeable about complex criminal defense issues. He is very hard-working and provides excellent representation for his clients. No one will work harder to achieve the best result.”


  • “I hope not to need a criminal lawyer again soon but it's nice to know where to find a good one!!”

    Steven M.

  • “I was fighting a DUI prison case. Those cases are usually very black and white for judges. Mr. Pernik guided me in the right direction so my case turned out very beneficial for me. His statements are very well put together.”

    Avvo Reviewer

  • “I must say Mr. William Pernik is an exemplary exception to this rule. I cannot say enough wonderful things about Mr. Pernik and his professionalism as an attorney and his compassion for his client's rights.”

    Yelp Reviewer

  • “William was very friendly and checked on the status of my file for free.”

    Ba C.

  • “If you are smart enough to find William and pick him for your attorney, the outcome will be the best you could possibly hope for.”

    K F.

  • “Roland listened to me, asked appropriate questions and provided me with the information that I needed in order to make an informed decision.”

    Chris m.

  • “You will not regret hiring him as your legal counsel. I honestly, cannot thank him enough for his dedication, hard work, and patience with my case that lasted over 18 months”

    Rob M.

  • “He is an active listener, dedicated to his profession and his community.”

    J TD T.

  • “I felt like he understood the stress me and my family were going through and held our hand through the process”

    Alex F.