The Career Criminal Unit prosecutes felonies committed by serious repeat offenders. Unit attorneys handle the majority of the Three Strikes cases filed in Santa Clara County. Each of these cases is reviewed by a group of senior attorneys to determine whether the District Attorney should exercise his discretion to seek a reduction from the life sentence penalties. In cases where this is done, the reasons are stated on the record in open court. Cases that are not reduced are assigned to unit attorneys who specialize in Three Strikes prosecutions and handle the cases from start to finish. In addition to Three Strikes cases, unit attorneys prosecute serious and complex cases that benefit from having the same deputy district attorney handle the case from beginning to end.
Our three-strikes policy pursuant to AB 971 (1994) is as follows:
I. Qualifying Strike Priors
Strike priors will be alleged in felony pleadings and if discovered after filing will be added at the first reasonable opportunity. Defendants who attempt to plead guilty, or do plead guilty to a pleading which does not charge provable strike prior(s) should be advised of what the penalty will be when the prior(s) is/are alleged.
- Juvenile priors: Provable juvenile adjudications will be alleged if the adjudicated petition establishes a violation of W&I Code Section 707(b) and it is either a serious or violent felony.
- Two or more strikes arising out of the same case: A 3-strikes, 25-to-life case shall not be filed where the requisite felony strikes are Penal Code Section 654 counts involving the same victim.
With the exception of homicide and sex offenses, cases in which the defendant has two prior strikes shall immediately be referred to the Assistant District Attorney for Gangs and Career Criminal, or the Team Leader for the Career Criminal Team, or a member of the Career Criminal Team.
As in all cases, witnesses to 3-strike cases shall be afforded the protection of Penal Code Section 841.5: addresses, phone numbers and other identifiers of all witnesses shall be eliminated upon initial filing. In addition, victims of sex offenses shall not have their names disclosed in accordance with Penal Code Section 293.
III. 1385 Powers
Before a strike prior is stricken where a defendant has two prior strikes, the case must be reviewed by three of the following:
Assistant District Attorney for Gangs/Career Criminal, Assistant District Attorney for Sexual Assault, Chief Trial Deputy, Career Criminal Team Leader. This applies to all such cases in the office.
Before the strike prior is stricken where a defendant has only one prior strike, the case must be reviewed by two of the following:
- Assistant District Attorney as appropriate to the prosecutor's line of organization;
- Supervising Deputy;
- Team Leader. Each 1385 motion will be on the record with an adequate recitation of how it is in furtherance of justice or how the evidence to prove the prior is insufficient.
IV. Serious Felony Allegations
Care should be exercised in filing 667/1192.7 allegations that a crime is a serious felony. Serious felony allegations should not be stricken if they can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Deputies should not enter into stipulations that serious felony allegations will be ignored in order to obtain guilty pleas.
Our deferred entry of judgment (diversion) policy is unchanged by AB 971.
VI. Section 17
Our Penal Code Section 17 policy is unchanged by AB 971.
The public wants more protection from repeat felons and wants us to plead all qualifying priors and strike them only on the record and only in furtherance of justice or for insufficient evidence.
Original date of issue: April 16, 1994
Reissued: March 12, 1998
Reissued: August 15, 2005
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