Assigned to JUD                                                                                                          AS PASSED BY THE SENATE






Forty-seventh Legislature, Second Regular Session





sentencing; third felony offenses




            Subject to voter approval, enacts a three strikes law for persons convicted of specified violent or aggravated offenses.




            Three strikes laws are a category of statutes enacted, beginning in the 1990s, to require longer periods of imprisonment for persons convicted of a felony on three (or more) separate occasions.  The practice of imposing longer prison sentences on repeat offenders than on first-time offenders who commit the same crime is common; however, such sentences are generally not compulsory in every case, and judges have some discretion as to the term of incarceration.


            The first three strikes law was enacted in 1993 in Washington, and California followed in 1994.  By 2004, over 20 states and the federal government had laws that satisfy the general criteria for designation as three strikes statutes — namely, that a third felony conviction brings a sentence of life in prison, with no parole possible until a period of time, most commonly 25 years, has been served.  Although Arizona law provides for longer prison sentences for repetitive offenders, it does not have three strikes statutes.


            The fiscal impact associated with this legislation is undetermined; however, mandatorily increasing prison sentences for repeat offenders may have a fiscal impact on the Arizona Department of Corrections.




1.      Requires that a person be sentenced to life imprisonment if the person has been convicted of being an accomplice to, committing, attempting or conspiring to commit any violent or aggravated felony and the person has previously, on separate occasions, been convicted of or been convicted of being an accomplice to the following offenses:

a)      two or more violent or aggravated felonies.

b)      two or more class 2, 3 or 4 felonies not committed on the same occasion and involving physical injury to a victim or committed against the person of a victim.


2.      Requires the following two conditions to be met for the life imprisonment term (3rd strike) to apply:

a)      the first felony conviction (1st strike) must be imposed before the defendant commits the conduct giving rise to the second conviction (2nd strike) and the second felony conviction (2nd strike) must be imposed before the defendant commits the conduct giving rise to the third conviction (3rd strike).

b)      the two prior convictions (1st and 2nd strikes) must have been entered within 15 years of the conviction for the third offense (3rd strike), excluding time spent in custody, on probation or while the person is an absconder.


3.      Treats offenses committed out-of-state the same for purposes of prior convictions, if the out-of-state conviction would be a violation or attempted violation of a violent or aggravated felony in Arizona or the person would be considered an accomplice to a violation of a violent or aggravated felony in Arizona.


4.      Qualifies the life imprisonment term for commutation after the person has served at least 35 years.


5.      Precludes the person serving the life imprisonment term from suspension of sentence, probation, pardon or release on any basis, except commutation.


6.      Defines “violent or aggravated felony” as a specified list of 24 offenses.


7.      Prohibits each legislative amendment that has the effect of reducing possible punishment in the criminal sentencing statutes from taking effect unless the amendment is generally described and justified in the findings and declaration statutory section of criminal law.


8.      Adds an additional stated purpose of the criminal law, and of the findings and declarations concerning criminal law.


9.      Requires the Secretary of State to submit the proposition to the voters at the next general election.


10.  Becomes effective if approved by the voters and on proclamation of the Governor.


Amendments Adopted by Rules Committee


·         Removes the provision specifying that the Legislature retains the power to enact laws adding to the enumerated violent or aggravated felonies.


Amendments Adopted by Committee of the Whole


·         Requires the conduct giving rise to a strike to occur after the imposition of sentence for the previous strike.


Senate Action


JUD                 2/13/06     DP     5-2-1-0

RULES           2/20/06     PFCA

3rd Read           3/6/06                 17-12-1


Prepared by Senate Research

March 9, 2006, 2006