Prop. 36 Passes; Will Modify California Three Strikes Law

Voters on Tuesday opted to change California’s "Three Strikes and You’re Out" law, which mandates a life sentence for anyone convicted of three serious crimes, NBC projects.

Proposition 36 easily passed 53-percent to 47-percent, according to the Secretary of State.

Under the "Three Strikes" law, someone who commits two felonies defined as serious can be sent to prison for 25 years by committing a third felony of any type – even some forms of shoplifting. Prop. 36 sought to modify that policy, the toughest of its kind in the nation.

With its passage, Prop. 36 would amend the law to make only a violent or serious third felony count as a "third strike."

Decision 2012: Complete Coverage of National, State and Local Contests

As currently written, California’s 1994 three-strikes law counts residential burglary as a strike, allows offenders’ juvenile records to be considered as strikes in some cases and lets the third strike be imposed for any felony. Offenders can be sent away for life if their third felony is for petty theft, forgery or drug possession.

Opponents of Prop. 36 faced an uphill battle against a heavily-funded campaign.


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The "Yes on 36" campaign raised more than $2.4 million and had the backing of big names such as business magnate George Soros, who contributed more than $1 million alone. The second leading donor was David Mills, a professor at Stanford Law School, who contributed just under $1 million.

Leading donors contributing to "No on 36" are the Peace Officers Research Association, which contributed $100,000 and the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, which has contributed $10,000.

At least 2,800 inmates, or about a third of the 8,900 inmates convicted under the current three-strikes law, could have their sentences reduced should Proposition 36 pass, according to the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

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