Striking a Strike In California
1. In People v. Williams (1998) 17 Cal.4th 148, the trial court struck one of the defendant's two prior strikes. (Williams, supra, 17 Cal.4th at p. 157.)
The Court of Appeal determined that the order was an abuse of discretion in light of the defendant's "'extraordinary record of prior criminality,'" and reversed the judgment. ( Id. at pp. 157-158.)
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the Court of Appeal to the extent that it set aside the superior court's order striking the prior strike ( id. at p. 165), finding that the superior court's order "fell outside the bounds of reason under the applicable law and the relevant facts." ( Id. at p. 164.)
The defendant's prior strikes had been committed 13 years before his most current conviction, which was for driving under the influence following three prior similar convictions. ( Id. at pp. 162-163.)
In addition, he had not refrained from criminal activity during those 13 years, he was often in jail or prison, he violated parole and probation, and he had not followed through on efforts to bring his substance abuse problem under control. ( Id. at p. 163.)
In People v. Williams (1998) 17 Cal. 4th 148, the state Supreme Court gave further definition to the standard for dismissing a strike "in furtherance of justice" by requiring that the defendant be deemed outside the spirit of the Three Strikes law before a strike was dismissed:
"We therefore believe that, in ruling whether to strike or vacate a prior serious and/or violent felony conviction allegation or finding under the Three Strikes law, on its own motion, 'in furtherance of justice' pursuant to Penal Code section 1385(a), or in reviewing such a ruling, the court in question must consider whether, in light of the nature and circumstances of his present felonies and prior serious and/or violent felony convictions and the particulars of his background, character, and prospects, the defendant may be deemed outside the scheme's spirit, in whole or in part, and hence should be treated as though he had not previously been convicted of one or more serious and/or violent felonies.
If it is striking or vacating an allegation or finding, it must set forth its reasons in an order entered on the minutes, and if it is reviewing the striking or vacating of such allegation or finding, it must pass on the reasons so set forth." Williams, supra, 17 Cal. 4th at page 161.
2. In People v. Garcia (1999) 20 Cal.4th 490, the Supreme Court held a trial court may choose not to strike a prior conviction pursuant to section 1385, subdivision (a) with respect to one count and still strike the same prior conviction with respect to another count.
Disagreeing with the People's argument that to permit such discretion would undermine the principle of consecutive three strikes sentences, the Supreme Court noted with approval that the Garcia trial court had in fact ordered the sentences on the two counts to run consecutively. ( Garcia, supra, 20 Cal.4th at p. 500.)