Only One Strike Per Swing Says California Supreme Court

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People v. Vargas

In a unanimous decision, the California Supreme Court likened the nature of the three strikes sentencing law to baseball, stating that a person should not be able to get multiple strikes as the result of a single “swing” with the bat.  In discussing the intent of California’s voters when the law was enacted, the court reasoned that

“[g]iven this information, the voting public would reasonably have understood the ―Three Strikes! baseball metaphor to mean that a person would have three chances—three swings of the bat, if you will—before the harshest penalty could be imposed.”

This ruling does not mean that a person who has received multiple strikes as the result of multiple victims, or a course of criminal conduct that is divisible, benefits from this ruling.  Vargas applies to situations where multiple strikes result from an indivisible course of conduct with a single victim.  For example, carjacking a single vehicle could result in multiple convictions for carjacking, robbery and kidnapping.  However, under Vargas these convictions would constitute but a single strike.

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