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Violent Crime: Crime Against a Person

"three Strikes" Laws

"Three strikes and you're out" laws, also called habitual felony laws, state that a criminal who is convicted of his or her third felony must remain in prison for an extended period of time, sometimes for life. Although various forms of these "get tough" laws for repeat offenders have existed for centuries, twenty-two states and the federal government passed new habitual felony laws between 1993 and 1995. The laws became commonly known as the "three strikes" laws.

Overall crime rates in the United States have been on a steady rise since the late 1960s. By the early 1990s, television news coverage of horrific crimes, often committed by individuals with previous felony convictions or by those out of prison on parole, reached a large segment of the U.S. public. It was reasonable for many to assume that repeat offenders would never reform, would continue to commit felonies, and should be locked up for longer periods of time than a first-time offender. Public pressure to get tough and keep the most violent repeat criminals locked up indefinitely caused state legislatures to pass the "three strikes" laws. After ten years of implementing these penalties, however, some states have encountered negative consequences. The laws remain controversial.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationCrime and Criminal LawViolent Crime: Crime Against a Person - Crimes Against Individuals, Hate Crime, Robbery, Aggravated Assault, Forcible Rape, Stalking, "three Strikes" Laws