Covered by NYDaily News. Las Vegas man accused of threatening a prominent attorney and making vile remarks.
Covered by New York Times, and other outlets. Fake heiress accused of conning the city’s wealthy, and has an HBO special being made about her.
Accused of stalking Alec Baldwin. The case garnered nationwide attention, with USAToday, NYPost, and other media outlets following it closely.
Juror who prompted calls for new Ghislaine Maxwell trial turns to lawyer who defended Anna Sorokin.
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New York’s three strikes law went into effect in 1978. It requires a mandatory maximum sentence for any felony conviction after two prior violent felony convictions.
Specifically, under New York Penal Law § 70.08, a “persistent violent felony offender” is someone convicted of a violent felony offense after two prior separate violent felony convictions. Such offenders face mandatory maximum prison sentences.
For example, if someone was convicted of three separate robberies, they would face up to 25 years to life in prison under the three strikes law. Judges have no discretion to impose a lower sentence regardless of mitigating factors.
In order for an offense to count as a strike under New York’s law, it must meet certain criteria:
Violent felony offenses include crimes like murder, kidnapping, arson, robbery, burglary, and certain assaults. The full list of qualifying felonies is defined in N.Y. Penal Law § 70.02.
Drug offenses, white collar crimes, and non-violent felonies cannot count as strikes.
Proponents argue three strikes laws take career criminals off the streets and act as a deterrent. However, research on their effectiveness has been mixed. Some research has found little deterrent effect and no influence on statewide crime rates.
Critics also argue three strikes laws impose unreasonable mandatory sentences, remove judicial discretion, and disproportionately affect minorities. Over 90% of those incarcerated under three strikes nationally are African American or Hispanic.
There are also economic costs. Incarcerating aging prisoners under three strikes is expensive for states. By 2030, incarceration costs for three strikes prisoners could reach $9.7 billion annually nationwide.
In addition to three strikes laws, New York has other mandatory minimum sentencing laws that require strict penalties for certain crimes regardless of mitigating factors.
For example, the Rockefeller Drug Laws imposed harsh mandatory minimums for drug offenses. Selling two ounces or possessing four ounces of heroin or cocaine triggers a mandatory 15-years-to-life sentence.
Firearm offenses also carry mandatory minimums. Simply possessing a loaded firearm illegally in New York can result in a 3.5 year mandatory minimum prison sentence.
Judges have no discretion under mandatory minimums. Critics argue they impose unreasonable “one size fits all” punishments without regard for individual circumstances.
There have been efforts to reform three strikes laws and mandatory minimum sentences in New York.
For example, the Rockefeller Drug Laws have been reformed to allow more judicial discretion and treatment alternatives to incarceration. The original laws imposed costly prison terms without reducing drug abuse or crime.
The latest criminal justice reform legislation in 2019 also eased certain mandatory minimums. For example, the mandatory minimum for second degree burglary was lowered from 3.5 to 2 years.
While New York has reformed some areas, three strikes and mandatory minimums still remain stringent. Critics argue more reform is needed to create a fairer, less punitive criminal justice system.
In summary, New York’s three strikes law and other mandatory minimum sentencing statutes impose strict penalties without judicial discretion. While designed to deter crime, research shows little crime reduction effect. Critics argue these laws are overly punitive, costly, and disproportionately impact minorities. There have been some reforms recently, but more changes may be needed to fix systemic flaws with mandatory sentencing.
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