Habitual criminal treatment

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Updated: 4/13/2007 3:35 pm
The treatment of habitual criminals differs among the states. Twenty-two states and the federal authorities have initiated a policy towards habitual criminals, which is often referred to as 'three-strikes' legislation. Accordingly, a criminal convicted of a serious or violent felony for the third time receives a prison sentence, generally 25-years-to-life, in addition to the sentence for the crime committed. Crimes that qualify as serious or violent felonies include murder, rape, kidnapping, arson, burglary, grand theft with a firearm, and various drug-related offenses. Some states impose an additional sentence for a second conviction of a serious or violent crime. This 'second-strike' sentence is generally an automatic 25-year prison sentence on top of the sentence received for the actual crime. California has been most active in handing down second- and third-strike sentences to habitual criminals. In that state, repeat offenses don't necessarily have to be serious or violent felonies to qualify for the 'third-strike' rule. Other states require that all three crimes be serious or violent felonies. The federal government also has 'three-strikes' laws, although these are seldom applied. The 28 states that don't have 'third-strike' laws have differing policies regarding habitual felons. Some states sanction additional sentencing for felons convicted for the sixth time, regardless of where the felony was committed. There's some controversy, particularly in California, concerning whether the 'third-strike' handling of felonies, particularly in drug-related cases, is an effective method of reducing the overall crime rate.

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