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Does Virginia Have a Three Strikes Law?

The Commonwealth of Virginia has what is known as the “three strikes” law (Virginia Code Section 19.2-297.1), which applies specifically to violent felony offenses. If a person has twice been previously convicted of a violent felony crime and is convicted a third time (or more), then according to the law, the individual must be sentenced to life in prison.

What Offenses Do The Three Strikes Rule Apply To?

Virginia’s three strikes law only applies to specific offenses. They include:

  • murder
  • any felony sexual assault
  • voluntary manslaughter
  • any malicious wounding or malicious felony assault
  • robbery
  • carjacking
  • mob-related felonies
  • any abduction
  • arson of any occupied structure or dwelling

If an individual has twice been convicted of any combination of these offenses in the past, and then is convicted a third time, then that individual receives a mandatory life sentence.

It is important to note that even if you are convicted of three different types of crimes that qualify as violent felony crimes, you would still be subjected to Virginia’s three-strikes law. The law does not require that each offense be identical to the others, only that the offenses are classified the same. So for instance, if you were convicted of robbery, abduction, and then a carjacking, the three strikes law would still apply. Even though the crimes were not the same, they were all violent felonies.

What About Virginia’s Two Strikes Law?

Virginia also has a “two strikes” law (§ 19.2-297.1) that applies to specific felony sexual assault offenses. If you are convicted twice of a felony sexual assault, then the court would be required to hand down the maximum allowed sentence for that particular crime. The following crimes qualify as felonious violent sexual assault:

  • Rape
  • Object penetration
  • Forcible sodomy

If you were convicted twice of this type of offense, the mandatory sentence the judge would be required to impose is life in prison.

As is the case with the three strikes law, the Commonwealth does not require that the offenses committed be the same, as long as they are part of the same classification. So even if you were convicted of rape and then were convicted of forcible sodomy, you would be subject to Virginia’s two strikes law and would receive the maximum possible sentence for your crimes.

Virginia’s three strikes and two strikes rules are what is known as “enhanced penalties.” One stipulation is that the court cannot sentence you using Virginia’s enhanced penalties unless they file notice that they plan to do so. If they don’t file, then the usual sentencing for the crime that has been committed will be imposed.

Things To Know About Virginia’s Three Strikes Rule

If you’ve been arrested and charged with a felony in Virginia, it is important to know the following:

  • The only crimes that are subjected to Virginia’s strikes rules are felony sexual assaults and violent felony offenses.
  • The offenses do not necessarily have to be identical.
  • The crimes should be unrelated to one another, meaning that they should not be affiliated with the same criminal acts as the crimes that came before.
  • In order for the three-strikes law to apply, you must have been out of prison between convictions.
  • In some extremely rare cases, if you were sentenced in accordance with Virginia’s two and three strikes rules, you could qualify for conditional release once you turn 60. By that time, you must have served at least 10 years of your sentence. Once you turn 65, the time served is reduced to 5 years.

Virginia’s two and three-strikes laws are severe, and they can have a serious, life-altering impact on an individual’s life and the lives of their loved ones. If you are facing prosecution for a conviction that could lead to an enhanced penalty, then you need the experienced Virginia Beach criminal defense attorneys at Shannon & Associates, P.C. in your corner. We will discuss your legal options and use every legal tool at our disposal to fight back against the charges you face.

Contact us today at (757) 228-5529 or reach out to us online for a confidential case evaluation.



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