Three-strikes law

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Three-strikes law (analogously: " Three-Strikes Law") refers to a law in US usage according to which a particularly severe penalty is automatically pronounced for a third conviction for a criminal offense . The term comes from baseball , where a batsman is eliminated after the third failure ( "strike" ) and is no longer allowed to participate in the game until the next round.

Criminal law

In US criminal law, three-strikes laws are provisions according to which an offender who has already been convicted twice for a crime ( felony ) is automatically and compulsorily sentenced to life imprisonment if convicted again. An early release with good conduct in prison is usually only possible after 25 years.

Three strikes are not new; As early as the late 19th century, the US state of New York had the option of imprisoning criminals for long periods of time on the grounds that they could not be taught (Persistent Felony Offender Law , "habitual criminal law"). European criminal laws also provide for higher penalties to be imposed for repeated offenses than for first-time offenses, but the courts have far greater discretion here.

In the USA, it does not matter for the application of the law how long ago the two previous crimes were committed. The Supreme Court ruled that 25 years or more of imprisonment for the third offense was not grossly excessive and was not a cruel or unusual punishment under the 8th Amendment . However, many US states differentiate according to the severity of the offenses. Most of the time, the first two offenses must be violent crimes.

The California three-strikes law, which is particularly well known for its severity and the large number of convictions , does not provide for such a distinction. Crimes classified as "serious" by law without violence against people, in particular burglary and car theft, are among the offenses for which the regulation applies. In 2004, a proposal ("Proposition 66") to limit the application of this law to violent crimes was narrowly rejected by California's voters in a referendum . In a further referendum in November 2012, the elector limited the application of the law to cases where the third offense was a serious or violent crime.

On June 26, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court in Johnson v. United States that the phrase “otherwise involves conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another” in the federal Armed Career Criminal Act (the so-called “residual clause” translates as: “other behavior that seriously endangers physical integrity Represents a third party ") too vague and therefore a violation of the due process clause of the 5th additional article .

Former legal situation in Germany

A regulation similar to the three-strikes law was created in Germany during the time of National Socialism . Through the law against dangerous habitual criminals , which came into force on January 1, 1934, u. a. Section 20a inserted into the Reich Criminal Code :

Section 20a of the Criminal Code as amended on January 1, 1934
(1) If someone who has already been convicted twice has forfeited a custodial sentence as a result of a new deliberate act and the overall assessment of the acts shows that he is a dangerous habitual criminal, as long as the new act is not threatened with a heavier penalty, up to five years in prison and, if the new offense would be a crime even without this tightening of penalties, up to fifteen years in prison. The aggravation of the penalties requires that the two previous convictions of a crime or willful misdemeanor have been given and that each has been sentenced to the death penalty, jail or prison of at least six months.
(2) If someone has committed at least three deliberate acts and the overall assessment of the acts shows that he is a dangerous habitual criminal, the court can also increase the punishment for each individual offense to be judged, even if the other conditions mentioned in paragraph 1 are not met .
(3) An earlier conviction is out of the question if more than five years have passed between it becoming final and the subsequent act. A previous offense that has not yet been legally judged cannot be considered if more than five years have passed between it and the next offense. The period does not include the time in which the perpetrator is serving a custodial sentence or is kept in an institution by order of the authorities.
(4) A foreign conviction is equivalent to a domestic one if the punished act would also be a crime or willful offense under German law.

The regulation remained in force after the end of the war and was only abolished by the Great Criminal Law Reform of 1969 with effect from April 1, 1970. In Austria , Section 20a of the Criminal Code was in force from March 13, 1938 (so-called Anschluss ) until May 1, 1945.


The phrase "three strikes" is also used in relation to copyright infringements on the Internet, especially in relation to those that take place during file sharing . The basic idea here is the same: after two offenses that are lightly punished (usually with warnings), the third time a drastic penalty follows; in this case, the withdrawal of internet access for a certain period of time. Families and living community members would also be affected. In addition, Internet telephony would no longer be possible.

The term was first used in this context in the discussions about the French Hadopi law. The highest court in France first ruled the three-strikes bans unconstitutional. The law passed in May 2009 (Art. 5 et 11 de la loi Création et Internet ) violates the Declaration of Human and Civil Rights of 1789, the judges in Paris found. The court held that the freedom of communication contained therein also includes freedom of access to the Internet. The French Supreme Court later approved the second edition of the law in 2009.

The term has now been picked up in reporting and is also used in relation to other laws with similar content. The "three strikes" principle has now been implemented in New Zealand (Infringing File Sharing) Amendment Act 2011), South Korea (Korean Copyright Act 2009), France (Hadopi Act), Taiwan and the United Kingdom (Digital Economy Act 2010) . The term officially used in Germany is not “three strikes”, but “graduated response”.

Individual evidence

  1. FindLaw: [ARCHIVE EWING v. CALIFORNIA] ( English ) FindLaw. November 5, 2002. Archived from the original on March 29, 2015. Retrieved on March 29, 2015.
  2. ^ Andre Coleman: Three strikes may be out , Pasadena Weekly. February 2, 2006. "For instance, Santos Reyes of El Monte is now doing 25 years to life for lying on the written portion of a driver's license test." 
  3. Rina Palta: Proposition 36: three strikes reform passes Easily , 89.3KPCC. November 7, 2012. 
  4. Johnson v. United States at , accessed December 4, 2015.
  5. §20a StGB old version
  6. Stefan Krempl , Jürgen Kuri: [ARCHIVE France: Harsh penalties for copyright infringement via file sharing] . Heise Online. September 23, 2009. Archived from the original on March 29, 2015. Retrieved on March 29, 2015.
  7. ^ Max Colchester: [ARCHIVE France Enforces New Antipiracy Law] ( English ) The Wall Street Journal. October 27, 2010. Archived from the original on March 29, 2015. Retrieved on March 29, 2015.


  • Ahmed A. White: The Juridical Structure Of Habitual Offender Laws And The Jurisprudence Of Authoritarian Social Control. 37 U. Tol. L. Rev. 705 (2006).
  • Alexander Köstler-Loewe: " US style criminal law: 'Three Strikes and You're Out!' - Baseball, relapse and criminal policy? Frankfurter Kriminalwissenschaftliche Studien Vol. 111, Frankfurt / Main, 2008