2012’s Proposition 36: Are You Eligible for a Reduced Sentence?

Back in 1994, California passed Proposition 184, a voter initiative that created a very strict “three strikes” sentencing law. The “three strikes” refer to three criminal convictions, and the law imposed a mandatory extended sentence—usually life—for persons convicted of a felony for the third time. The law was prompted largely by the efforts and campaign of a man whose daughter had been murdered by two repeat offenders who had been released from incarceration. The stated purpose of the law was to keep repeat offenders behind bars to prevent them from committing further crimes. If a criminal had not learned to stay straight after serving prison terms for two prior felony convictions, the rationale went, then he could not be trusted on release and therefore should pay for his criminal tendencies by permanent incarceration.

As a result of and since the passage of Proposition 184, nearly 9,000 of California’s approximately 141,000 inmates—or just over 6%—have been sentenced under Proposition 184’s life-sentence provisions, and even more are serving extended terms under Proposition 184’s other extended sentence provisions, which mandated a doubling of the normal sentence for a second felony conviction if the first felony conviction was for a serious or violent crime, such as burglary, robbery, or rape.

Twice in the past, California voters have been offered revisions to the law:

In 2000, they adopted Proposition 36, which introduced revisions to the law that addressed drug offenders: certain drug offenders convicted of possession, use, or transfer (but not sale or manufacture) could be eligible for parole and treatment rather than incarceration, and charges would be dismissed upon completion of the treatment program.

In 2004, California voters rejected Proposition 66, which would have made substantial changes to Proposition 184 by requiring a third felony to be “serious or violent” in order to qualify as the third strike, and also would have removed some crimes from the “serious or violent” category.

However, on November 6, 2012, California voters finally adopted substantial changes to Proposition 184’s three strike provisions by adopting a new Proposition 36. 2012’s Proposition 36 now requires the third strike felony conviction to be only for a “serious or violent” crime in order for the mandatory life sentencing provisions to kick in. Significantly, it also allows those California inmates who are currently serving life sentences under Proposition 184 to apply for re-sentencing if their third felony did not meet this “serious or violent” criterion.

Currently, that means up to 3,000 California inmates may now be eligible for release (due to time served) or a reduced sentence.

Sacramento criminal defense attorney Alin Cintean Can Assist Current Inmates in Applying for Re-Sentencing Under Proposition 36’s Provisions

Not every convict serving a life sentence under Proposition 184’s three-strike provisions is eligible for re-sentencing, and not every third-strike convict whose third felony is not serious or violent is eligible, either. For example, even if the third felony did not meet the “serious or violent” requirement of the new law, an inmate serving a life sentence may not be eligible if the two prior convictions included certain non-serious, non-violent sex or drug crimes, crimes involving firearm possession, or the crimes of child molestation, rape, or murder.

Sacramento criminal defense attorney Alin Cintean has extensive experience in helping clients understand how California’s three strikes law works and in assisting clients to utilize 2000’s Proposition 36 drug treatment provisions to avoid the three-strikes sentencing law. We are now prepared to assist inmates who are seeking re-sentencing under 2012’s newly-passed Proposition 36. He is familiar with the elements of the crimes that do or do not qualify an inmate for re-sentencing, and we can help inmates identify whether they are eligible.

Under Proposition 36, the re-sentencing of those serving terms under Proposition 184’s three-strikes law is not automatic. Instead, inmates must apply for re-sentencing, and it has been estimated that obtaining a ruling on a new sentence may take as long as one year, depending upon the jurisdiction. Consequently, it is critical that those seeking to take advantage of the new law take action as soon as possible if they wish to reduce their time of incarceration.

If you or someone close to you is currently serving a mandatory sentence imposed under Proposition 184’s three strikes law, the Sacramento criminal defense attorneys at our law firm are prepared to assist you. We can identify whether you or your loved one are eligible for re-sentencing, prepare the appropriate forms and applications in the applicable jurisdiction, negotiate with the local District Attorney to obtain a review of the criminal record, conviction, and sentence and to seek a recommendation for a reduced sentence, and petition the court. You can be sure that we will do our utmost to resolve the matter as swiftly as possible; in some cases, we anticipate that inmates may even be able to secure release on the basis that a reduced sentence would fully encompass time already served.

If you need help in a Proposition 36 re-sentencing case, contact the criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Alin Cintean by calling (916) 441-3500, or you may use the online consultation form on this website. We can assist clients in Sacramento County as well as the surrounding areas. Contact us today: the sooner we get the process started, the sooner you may obtain freedom for yourself or someone you love.


The Law Offices of Alin Cintean offers comprehensive criminal defense from the beginning of your case through the final appeal. Let our defense attorney in Sacramento defend your rights. Contact us online or by telephone at (916) 441-3500 to arrange a personal consultation with Alin Cintean today.

555 Capitol Mall, Suite 755
Sacramento, CA 95814 US
Phone: (916) 441-3500