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Understanding Georgia’s Three Strikes Law

The Waltman Firm explains Georgia’s three strikes law, its consequences, and why you need legal guidance to navigate its complexities. Call us today for more information.

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Strike Three, You’re Out

In 1993, Georgia enacted a “three strikes law” along with 22 other states. While each state has their own rules and procedures, all of these laws share one thing in common: repeat offenders will face harsher sentences.

The purpose of these laws is to deter violent crime and stop individuals from reoffending. One of the primary goals of the criminal justice system is to reduce the rate of recidivism (rate of reoffending). Laws like the three strikes law are meant to further this goal. In Georgia, the rate of recidivism is around 30%, although the actual rate is closer to 50% when considering probation and parole violations.

If you have a criminal record and are facing new felony charges, the Waltman Firm is here to help. We can explain how the three strikes law applies to your situation and work with you to build a defense and protect your rights.

What Is Georgia’s Three Strikes Law?

In Georgia, the term “three strikes” is a misnomer. Under Georgia Code § 17-10-7, an individual with a prior felony conviction can face harsher sentencing after their second or fourth offense.

Whether an individual will receive an enhanced sentence depends on the nature of the crime and their past criminal record. This law only applies to individuals with prior felony convictions. Certain felonies committed in other states are also considered for purposes of the three strikes law.

Colloquially, the “three strikes law” refers to “seven deadly sins” crimes. The “recidivist statute” refer to all other felonies.

Three Strikes Law

Under § 17-10-7(b)(2), any person who has been previously convicted of a serious violent crime and then subsequently commits and is convicted of another will be sentenced to life in prison without parole or, if applicable, the death penalty.

In Georgia, serious violent felonies are also called the “seven deadly sins.” This includes: murder, rape, kidnapping, armed robbery, aggravated sexual battery, aggravated sodomy and aggravated child molestation.


Recidivist Statute

Under § 17-10-7(a), any person who has been previously convicted of one or two felonies will receive the maximum possible sentence. The judge, however, can suspend or probate this sentence. Under § 17-10-7(c), any person who has been previously convicted of three felonies and then subsequently commits and is convicted of a fourth will serve the maximum sentence provided under the law without an opportunity for parole.

These sentencing guidelines apply to all felonies except the seven deadly sins.


Jurisdiction: Federal or State?

Three strikes laws are used throughout the United States. There is also a federal three strikes law. Georgia’s three strikes law and recidivist statute apply only to crimes charged and tried within the state.

However, to be sentenced pursuant to § 17-10-7, only the second violent felony offense or fourth felony offense needs to actually occur in Georgia. Prior federal convictions and convictions in other states will count as first, second or third offenses for purposes of the statute.


Legal Implications

The three strikes system is meant to deter crime and reduce recidivism. It does this by imposing harsh sentences, like substantial prison time without the eligibility of parole. Repeat violent offenders can also face a life sentence or the death penalty.

Judges are bound to the mandatory sentence described in the law, leaving little room for judicial discretion. This means that judges are not able make more lenient sentencing decisions in the event of mitigating circumstances.

Georgia’s Seven Deadly Sins

Georgia classifies crimes into two broad categories: felonies and misdemeanors. Within the felony class, seven crimes have been designated as the “seven deadly sins.”

These felony crimes include:

  • Murder: Murder is the intentional killing of another.
  • Rape: In Georgia, rape is defined narrowly. A rape occurs when a man forcibly penetrates the female sex organ with the male sex organ.
  • Kidnapping: Kidnapping is the abduction of another and holding them against their will
  • Armed robbery: Armed robbery is the act of taking property from another person by use of a weapon or other device that appears to be a weapon.
  • Aggravated child molestation: Aggravated child molestation is the act of physically injuring a minor while performing indecent acts or when carrying out acts of sodomy.
  • Aggravated sexual battery: Aggravated sexual battery is the act of penetrating another’s sexual organ or anus with a foreign object.
  • Aggravated sodomy: Aggravated sodomy is the act of forcing another to perform or submit to sexual acts involving the sexual organ of one person and the mouth or anus of the other.

The charging of these crimes is subject to the Georgia statute of limitations for criminal offenses. The statute of limitations provides the time period in which a prosecutor must bring charges against the accused.

Under Georgia law, there is no time limit on murder charges. There is also no time limit on aggravated child molestation, aggravated sodomy, aggravated sexual battery, armed robbery, kidnapping and rape if provable by DNA evidence. Otherwise, the statute of limitation for forcible rape is 15 years and statute of limitation for other felonies is seven years.


Sentences for Seven Deadly Sins Crimes

Anyone found guilty of committing one of these crimes will serve a minimum mandatory sentence for their first offense. The mandatory minimum sentences are:

  • 10 years in prison without the possibility of parole for armed robbery or for kidnapping a victim above 14 years of age.
  • 25 years in prison without the possibility of parole for rape, child molestation, aggravated sodomy, aggravated sexual battery or for kidnapping a victim below 14 years of age.
  • Life in prison with no eligibility for parole for 25 years, or the death penalty, for murder.

Second offenses for any of these crimes will result in a life sentence without parole or, if applicable, the death penalty.

Three Strikes Law Penalties

Under the three strikes law, punishment for each seven deadly sins felony conviction is:

  • First offense: Upon conviction of a first violent felony offense, you will serve at least the mandatory minimum sentence for the felony conviction.

  • Second offense: Upon conviction of a second violent felony offense, you will be charged with life in prison without the possibility of parole or, if applicable, the death penalty.

Under the recidivist statute at § 17-10-7(c), the maximum sentence for a particular felony will be imposed upon the fourth conviction.


Other Consequences of a Felony Conviction

Besides lengthy terms of incarceration or the death penalty, a felony conviction can also impact a person’s finances and social life. It can make it difficult to find jobs, secure housing and can hurt relationships with friends and family. A felony conviction will also limit your rights as a U.S. citizen, affecting things like your ability to vote or possess a firearm.

The Waltman Firm is here to protect your freedom. You do not have to fight alone, contact us today to discuss your case.

Felony Charge? Call The Waltman Firm Today

Georgia’s three strikes law can have dire consequences for individuals previously convicted of a felony. It can lead to lengthy terms of incarceration, seriously impacting your life. Knowing how to choose a criminal defense attorney is crucial to securing your freedom and protecting your rights.

At the Waltman Firm, we handle all types of felony charges. We work hard to help our clients by developing a strong defense and trial strategy. We also will negotiate plea bargains to help secure the best possible outcome.

Contact the Waltman Firm today to schedule a consultation.