A coalition of law enforcement officials, civil rights organizations and taxpayer groups on Thursday said it has submitted enough signatures to local election officials to qualify a November ballot initiative to change California's three-strikes law.
The landmark law, which imposes harsh penalties on repeat offenders, remains controversial 18 years after passage, with activists and authorities alike asking whether its tough sentences sometimes far exceed the crimes.
Unlike other three-strikes laws across the country, California's treats any felony as a third strike -- even a nonviolent offense such as petty theft or drug possession -- as long as an offender's criminal history includes at least two violent or serious crimes, such as rape, robbery or residential burglary.
The proposed initiative, dubbed the Three Strikes Reform Act, would double the ordinary sentence for criminals whose third strike is not violent or serious instead of sentencing them to life behind bars. Offenders with a violent third strike still would receive life sentences.