News Release

"Three Strikes" Laws: "Absurd and Unnecessary"

Washington, DC (August 14, 1995) -- "The federal 'three strikes' law tried to fix a system that wasn't broken," according to Robert Fogelnest, of New York City, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL). "In fact, it's just another instance of federal authority intruding into matters traditionally and properly left to the states."

On the day set for sentencing of Thomas Lee Farmer in a federal district court in Iowa -- the first-ever sentencing under the new federal law -- Fogelnest called the law "absurd and unnecessary."

"The federal and most state criminal justice systems already have laws under which repeat or habitual offenders get substantially longer sentences. This defendant, for example, would be sentenced to 25-30 years as a 'career criminal' under the federal sentencing guidelines. He's 42 years old now, so even without the 'three-strikes' law, he couldn't get out of prison before he was 67. Sixty-seven year-olds don't commit much violent crime,"Fogelnest noted.

"States that have rushed to enact broad 'three stikes' laws, like California, are finding that their judicial and prison systems -- to say nothing of their state and local budgets -- are being strained past the breaking point by the huge volume of cases these laws create. Knowing that an initial or second conviction could later subject them to a life sentence, more and more defendants are insisting on trials instead of accepting plea agreements."

"'Three strikes' laws will force taxpayers to support geriatric offenders who must be kept in prison long after their propensity to commit additional crimes has passed. And overbroad 'three strikes' laws can send people to prison for life merely for committing nonviolent crimes," Fogelnest said.

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NACDL Communications Department

The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers is the preeminent organization advancing the mission of the criminal defense bar to ensure justice and due process for persons accused of crime or wrongdoing. A professional bar association founded in 1958, NACDL's many thousands of direct members in 28 countries – and 90 state, provincial and local affiliate organizations totaling up to 40,000 attorneys – include private criminal defense lawyers, public defenders, military defense counsel, law professors and judges committed to preserving fairness and promoting a rational and humane criminal legal system.