Dismissing Strike Allegations on a Count-by-count Basis

In People v. Garcia (1999) 20 Cal.4th 490, the California Supreme Court held that a trial court has discretion to dismiss strike allegations on a count-by-count basis. (Id. at pp. 492-493.) The court explained that in exercising its discretion, the trial court must consider the nature and circumstances of the current felonies, which, in many cases, may differ considerably. Accordingly, a court "might therefore be justified in striking prior conviction allegations with respect to a relatively minor current felony, while considering those prior convictions with respect to a serious or violent current felony." (Id. at p. 499.) In Garcia, the defendant had five strike convictions and was convicted of two counts of burglary. The trial court struck the strike allegations as to one count and imposed a term of 30 years to life, rather than 58 years to life. The Supreme Court found no abuse of discretion. The court noted that despite the dismissal, the sentence was not lenient and remained consistent with the purpose of the Three Strikes law. The court also observed that "defendant's prior convictions all arose from a single period of aberrant behavior for which he served a single prison term. Defendant cooperated with police, his crimes were related to drug addiction, and his criminal history does not include any actual violence. Cumulatively, all these circumstances indicate that 'defendant may be deemed outside the Three Strikes scheme's spirit,' at least 'in part,' and that the trial court acted within the limits of its . . . discretion." (Id. at p. 503)