Monday, September 9, 2019

Habitual Offender Laws in Alabama Essay Example | Topics and Well Written Essays - 1000 words

Habitual Offender Laws in Alabama - Essay Example While Erwin Chemerinsky tries to prove that the three strikes law does not always work and the absurdity of applying it to the Leandro Andrade and other nonviolent offences, Helland and Tabarrok have estimated that it effectively deters as well as incapacitates both soft core and hard core offenders, by reducing crime between 17-20 percent. It is costly since the average offender under three strikes law spends at least 20 years in prison. Even so, it helps prevent at least 31,000 crimes a year by keeping criminals off the streets for longer terms. Introduction The three strikes law is a law that allows State Courts to impose a life sentence with possibility of parole for people who have been convicted of three or more crimes of violent or serious nature. It was popular in the 1990s but has been criticized of late - it does not allow for judges to look at the circumstances of the case and let the punishment fit the crime. Discussion It seems that three strikes law is another form of m andatory sentencing, and those guidelines were thrown out of the window by the Supreme Court in 2005 (MSNBC News Website, 2005). Writing against the habitual offenders law in California, Harvard graduate and Constitutional Law expert Erwin Chemerinsky’s article entitled ‘Is California’s Three Strikes Mandatory Sentencing Law Cruel and Unusual Punishment?’ argues against the Three Strikes Law in the light of three or four cases. Leandro Andrade was sentenced to 50 years or two consecutive terms of 25 years each because of stealing kids’ videotapes on two separate occasions- the total value of which was $153. Because he had two prior convictions, the judge decided to slap a felony on him- instead of a misdemeanor that carried a much lesser sentence. The main impetus for change has come from FAMM or Families Against Mandatory Sentencing, which states that these laws are unrelenting and pass sentence just on the basis of the weight and type of drug an o ffender possesses (FAMM, 2012) The Law has clearly established that grossly disproportionate punishments are cruel and unusual and violate the Eighth Amendment. In Atkins v. Virginia (2002) the Court had ruled that the Eighth Amendment succinctly prohibits excessive sanctions. What is to be looked at is (1) the gravity of the offence and the harshness of the penalty; (2) sentences imposed on other criminals in the same area and (3) sentences imposed on criminals for the same crime committed in other areas. In Coker v. Georgia (1977) it was ruled that the sentence of death prescribed for rape was grossly disproportionate and excessive in terms of the Eighth Amendment. Similarly in Solem it was argued that to convict a man to life imprisonment for passing a bad check for $100 and six prior lighter and nonviolent offences was unconstitutional and excessive. Both the Helm and Andrade cases were non-violent offences and involved amounts less than $400, which separates grand theft from pe tty theft. By looking at prior records, the three strikes law is punishing a criminal for prior offences for which he has already served time. It could be upheld if reasonable men supported the decision, but no reasonable man will. Writing in support of the three strikes law in Does Three Strikes Deter? Eric Helland and Alex Tabarrok (2007) state that this law was enacted in California in March 1994.

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