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'Three-strikes' law exists but remains hotly debated issue

In baseball it's one, two, three strikes, you're out. You can argue with the ump if you want to, but there's little chance that you are going to win the argument and see the verdict reversed.

In West Virginia and Pennsylvania, the state codes incorporate the concept into the legal system. The argument that has been made in favor of the laws is that they are useful in getting violent, repeat offenders off the streets. Critics, meanwhile, blast them as too harsh and fill prisons with life-long residents.

Whether either of those scenarios is true is subject to debate. In Pennsylvania, for example, one analysis by The Morning Call determined that since the law was enacted in 1995, it has hardly ever been used. In one county, the law had only been invoked in five cases and only one of the defendants in those cases was sentenced to life in prison.

In the meantime, the laws remain in force and for some individuals facing criminal charges, it may well be something to be concerned about.

In West Virginia, the law applies only to felony convictions and it is only supposed to be applicable if one of the felonies is a violent crime. Over the years, however, case law has expanded the definition of what is a violent crime.

There is always a lot riding on the outcome of a case when you are charged with a crime, especially if it is a felony. Under the three-strike law, the potential for harsher consequences makes mounting a strong defense with the help of experienced legal counsel all the more important.

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Law Office of P. Zachary Stewart
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