Florida’s “three strikes” law requiring longer prison sentences for repeat felons was upheld in a 4-3 ruling by the state Supreme Court, the Associated Press reports. The five midlevel state appeals courts had been at odds over the constitutionality of the 1999 law. Two had concluded that the Legislature passed the law in violation of the state constitutional requirement that bills deal with only one subject; three ruled there was no problem with the law’s scope. Florida law says that judges must give defendants the maximum sentence for a third felony. For example, the top penalty for armed robbery is life in prison, so a “three-strike” offender convicted of that crime would have to be sentenced to life in prison. Other provisions require a three-year minimum sentence for aggravated assault or battery of someone 65 or older and five years for battery of a police officer.
The “three strikes” idea was a centerpiece of Gov. Jeb Bush’s 1998 gubernatorial campaign. Bush spokesman Jacob DiPietre said Florida’s crime rate hit a 33-year low last year. He asserted that the three-strikes law, along with a 10-20-life law for criminals who carry guns when they attack, were key in reducing crimes.