Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón cannot bar prosecutors from seeking harsher sentencing under California’s ‘three-strikes’ law, according to a ruling from California’s Second District of Appeals.
The decision supports a preliminary injunction issued in 2021 by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge James C. Chalfant, who argued that Gascón’s ban contravenes state law and violates the rights of prosecutors.
“On the merits, we conclude the voters and the Legislature created a duty, enforceable in mandamus, that requires prosecutors to plead prior serious or violent felony convictions to ensure the alternative sentencing scheme created by the three strikes law applies to repeat offenders,” the ruling said. “The district attorney overstates his authority. He is an elected official who must comply with the law, not a sovereign with absolute, unreviewable discretion.”
California’s three strikes law was passed in 1994 in an effort to combat recidivism and requires defendants convicted of a felony with two or more felonies on their record to be sentenced to a minimum of 25 years to life in prison.
The injunction was the result of a lawsuit brought by the Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA), which represents about 800 prosecutors in Los Angeles County. The initial injunction was appealed, as Gascón argued the ADDA lacked the standing to bring the case, but the Appeals Court disagreed, noting that the ADDA is the bargaining unit for the union of prosecutors within the county who were directly affected by Gascon’s policy.
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