In November 1993, voters in Washington state approved an initiative requiring life without the possibility of parole for “persistent offenders” convicted of a third “serious felony.” Thirteen other states passed “three strikes and you're out” laws last year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Most of the new laws are mandatory, requiring courts to impose the statutory sentence for habitual offenders. A few retain some judicial discretion. Prison terms under the laws also differ (see below).
California - Mandatory life sentence for third felony if there have been two prior “serious” or violent felonies, with offenders spending a minimum of 25 years imprisoned. The prison sentence also is doubled for any felony if there has been one prior serious or violent felony.
Colorado - Life sentence for third felony if there have been two prior violent felonies. No parole eligibility until a minimum of 40 years has been served.
Connecticut - Increases maximum sentence court may impose under “persistent dangerous felony offender” law from 25 to 40 years with one previous violent felony conviction; and from 25 years to life for two previous convictions. Life sentence is 60 years, determinate.
Georgia - Provides mandatory life without parole for second “serious violent felony” conviction. Fourth conviction on any felony requires maximum sentence to be served before eligible for parole.
Indiana - Provides mandatory life without parole if in separate charge state proves two prior unrelated felony convictions.
Kansas - Doubled sentences on sentencing guidelines grid for second and third “person felonies,” at judge's discretion.
Louisiana - Strengthened existing multiple offender law, adding felony offenses for which a third felony offense results in life without parole.
Maryland - Mandatory life sentence without parole for fourth conviction for crime of violence, for which offender has served three separate prison terms. Third crime of violence after two such convictions and at least one prison term results in mandatory 25 years. Second crime of violence following prison term results in mandatory 10-year sentence. Person sentenced under provisions who is 65 years old and served 15 years may petition for and be granted parole.
New Mexico - Mandatory life imprisonment, in addition to other term imposed, for third violent felony conviction. Parole eligibility after 30 years of the life term served.
North Carolina - Life without parole required upon third violent felony conviction and finding, under separate indictment, that offender is “violent habitual felon.” Separate law provides for review after 25 years served of life without parole sentence.
Tennessee - Life sentence without parole if one is found to be a repeat violent offender, as defined by the law.
Virginia - Provides mandatory life without parole for offender convicted of third felony involving designated acts of violence. Those sentenced under this law who reach 65 years of age and have served five years may petition parole board for conditional release.
Washington - Provides life imprisonment without possibility of parole for “persistent offenders” convicted of third “serious felony.”
Wisconsin - “Persistent repeater” who has had two previous, separate “serious felony” convictions receives mandatory life sentence without parole.
Source: National Conference of State Legislatures, November 1994.