Sex Crimes Carrying Life Sentences – Penal Code 667.61 (The One Strike Law)

Most people have heard of California’s Three Strikes law. This law means that if you are convicted of three serious or violent felonies (offenses that will result in a strike being added to your criminal record), your third conviction could lead to a life sentence in prison. This is harsh punishment, but many people are unaware that they could face a life sentence upon a first-time offense if convicted of certain crimes according to California “One Strike law” under Penal Code 667.61 (PC 667.61).

Prosecution of Sex Crimes Carrying Life Sentences

In order for you to face a life sentence under the “One Strike law” in California, you must have:

  • Committed a sex-related crime listed under PC 667.61(c);
  • Committed one or more of the circumstances specified in PC 667.61(d); OR
  • Committed two or more of the circumstances specified in PC 661.61(e).

Sex crimes that carry life sentences for a first-time conviction under Penal Code 667.61(c) include:

  • Rape or spousal rape that is accomplished against a person’s will by means of force, violence, duress, menace or fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury on the person or another (PC 261(a)(2)), PC 262(a)(1);
  • Rape or spousal rape that is accomplished against the victim’s will by threatening to retaliate in the future against the victim or any other person, and there is a reasonable possibility that the perpetrator will execute the threat (PC 261(a)(6), PC 262(a)(4));
  • Rape, spousal rape or sexual penetration, in concert (PC 264.1);
  • Lewd or lascivious acts on a child under 14 years of age by means of force, violence, duress, menace or fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury on the victim or another person (PC 288(b));
  • Sexual penetration when the act is accomplished against the victim’s will by means of force, violence, duress, menace or fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury on the victim or another person (PC 289(a));
  • Sodomy, while voluntarily acting in concert with another, against the victim’s will by means of force or fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury on the victim or another person (PC 286(d));
  • Oral copulation while voluntarily acting in concert with another against the victim’s will by means of force or fear of immediate and unlawful bodily injury on the victim or another person (PC 288a(d));
  • Continuous sexual abuse of a child (PC 288.5);
  • You have been previously convicted of a sexual offense listed under PC 667.61(c);
  • You kidnapped the victim of the present offense and the movement of the victim substantially increased the risk of harm to the victim over and above that level of risk necessarily inherent in the underlying offense in subdivision PC 667.61(c);
  • You inflicted aggravated mayhem or torture on the victim or another person in the commission of the present sexual offense (PC 205, PC 206);
  • Your sex crime was committed during the commission of a burglary of the first degree (PC 460(a)); or
  • You personally inflicted great bodily injury on the victim or another person in the commission of the present sexual offense (PC 12022.53).

You could also be sentenced to life in prison if you committed one or more of these circumstances under Penal Code 667.61(d):

  • You have been previously convicted of an offense specified in PC 667.61(c);
  • You kidnapped the victim of the present offense and the movement of the victim substantially increased the risk of harm to the victim over and above that level of risk necessarily inherent in the underlying offense in subdivision (c);
  • You inflicted aggravated mayhem or torture on the victim or another person in the commission of the present offense in violation of PC 205 or PC 206;
  • You committed the present offense during a commission of burglary of the first degree in violation of PC 460(a);
  • You personally inflicted great bodily injury on the victim or another person in the commission of the present offense in violation of PC12022.53, PC 12022.7, or PC 12022.8; or
  • You personally inflicted bodily harm on the victim who was under 14 years of age.

You could also face life in prison if you committed two or more of these circumstances specified in PC 661.61(e):

  • You kidnapped the victim of the present offense in violation of PC 207, PC 209 or PC 209.5;
  • You committed the crime during the commission of a burglary in violation of PC 459;
  • You personally used a dangerous or deadly weapon or a firearm in the commission of the crime in violation of PC 12022, PC 12022.3, PC 12022.5 or PC 12022.53;
  • You have been convicted in the present case or cases of committing an offense specified in subdivision (c) against more than one victim;
  • You engaged in the tying or binding of the victim or another person in the commission of the present offense; or
  • You administered a controlled substance to the victim in the commission of the present offense in violation of Section 12022.75.

Sentencing and Punishment for a Sex Crime that Carries a Life Sentence

 

life in prison for a sex crime
You could face life in prison for a sex crime.

Under Penal Code 667.61, you could face a sentence enhancement if any of the above circumstances occurred. Depending on the circumstances of your case, your sentence could be extended by 15 or 25 years or life in prison. A sentence enhancement will be added to the original sentence you received for the underlying crime that you committed.

The sentence enhancement you face depends on the actual conduct you committed. For example, you could face 25 years to life in prison if you used force or fear to commit the sex crime. If you did not commit the act by means of force or fear, you face 15 years to life in prison.

Defenses to Sex Crimes that Carry Life Sentences

A skilled criminal defense attorney can raise several legal defenses in your case to defend you against a charge of a Penal Code 667.61 violation. These include:

  • False accusations. If you did not violate California Penal Code 667.61 and were charged due to false accusations, your criminal defense attorney may be able to show the court that the alleged victim falsely accused you by exposing weaknesses or inconsistencies in his or her testimony.
  • You were under duress. If you committed the acts only because your life or the life of another was threatened by someone else, you should not be found guilty of this crime.
  • Lack of evidence. The prosecution is required to prove several elements in your case in order for you to be found guilty of PC 667.61. Your attorney may be able to argue that the evidence presented by the prosecution is not sufficient for you to be found guilty.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding California “One Strike Law”

At Wallin & Klarich, we commonly receive questions from those facing these serious charges. These include:

What if the offense was committed before the “One Strike Law,” came into effect in 1994?

The court has found that the One Strike Law could not be applied retroactively as it violated Ex Post Facto provisions in the Constitution, and therefore would not put you at risk for a life sentence.  If any offenses had occurred after the law came into affect, it would then be applicable.

Can a person be sentenced to more than one life sentence?

Yes, if there are multiple offenses, each offense separately qualifying for a life sentence, a convicted person can be punished with multiple life sentences.

Can I still be charged with this crime if the statute of limitations has expired?

The Statute of Limitations does not apply to a crime that falls under the definitions of the One Strike Law. Under California Penal Code 799, prosecution of a crime that is punishable by death of life imprisonment can be commenced at any time.

Call the Sex Crimes Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Today

sex crimes lawyer
Our skilled sex crime lawyers can help you now.

If you or a loved one has been charged with a sex crime that carries a life sentence, you need to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. At Wallin & Klarich, our skilled attorneys have been successfully defending clients facing sex crimes charges for over 30 years. We can help you, too.

With offices located in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich criminal defense attorney available to help you no matter where you work or live.

Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.