Are habitual offenders eligible for probation?
Yes, they are. Besides settling disputes, one of the most important jobs courts do is interpret law when statutes are unclear. The Massachusetts Supreme Court did just this in a case decided in December 2020 called Commonwealth v. Montarvo.
In this case, the question was if the first section of the three strikes law allows judges to put convicted defendants on probation. The defendant in this case was convicted of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and armed assault with intent to murder.
After thoroughly reviewing the language of the statute, the Supreme Court ruled that it does. This means that habitual offenders are eligible for probation.
What is a three strikes law
Massachusetts General Laws chapter 279, section 25 punishes “habitual criminals” or lays out what is called a three strikes law. This statute enhances sentencing penalties for people who are:
- Convicted of a felony
- Have received two prior convictions and have been sentenced to state or federal prison for at least 3 years.
In other words, the two prior convictions count as “strikes.” Under the first section of the statute, any crime where a person was sentenced to prison for 3 years or more can qualify as a strike. After the third strike, or a third conviction, the law makes the person a habitual criminal and allows them to be punished under the statute.
What is the punishment for a third strike?
If a person is convicted of a third felony, the person will receive the maximum penalty for that crime. Since felonies are often very serious crimes, this means that the third conviction could result in a life sentence. Generally, a person who commits their third strike is not eligible for parole until two thirds of their maximum sentence is served.
What are crimes that count as strikes?
Any conviction of 3 years or more to prison counts as a strike, but the second section of the law lays out a list of predicate crimes or possible strikes. Some examples include:
Under this second section of the law, a person receiving their third conviction is not eligible for parole, probation, good time, furlough, or work release.
Do delinquency and youthful offender convictions count as strikes?
No, they do not. Under the third section of the three strikes law, delinquency and youthful offender convictions are notcounted as predicate offenses.
Why is the three strikes law so harsh?
Massachusetts was not the first state to pass a three strikes law, but lawmakers were motivated to do so following the death of a veteran police officer in 2010. The officer was John Maguire of the Woburn Police Department. A repeat offender, placed on parole after being sentenced to three life terms, was responsible.
IF YOU OR A LOVED ONE HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH A FELONY OR VIOLENT CRIME, AND YOU NEED AN EXPERIENCED CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER WORKING ON YOUR SIDE TO PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS, PLEASE CONTACT CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY WILLIAM J. BARABINO.
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