“We don’t catch the smart ones.“
“Dumb and Dumber” and “Dumbest”
Under California’s “three strikes” law at the time, if a defendant committed two serious or violent felonies in the past, if he commits a new felony, no matter how minor, he faces a mandatory 25 years to life in prison.
(Some California DA’s Offices rarely file three strike cases. Other DA’s Offices, like Orange County, file all of them. Fortunately, judges can “strike” prior conviction allegations where the imposition of the harsh law would be unfair and unjust. Orange County judges did this in about one third of the cases. The “three strikes” law later changed to require that the third strike also be a serious or violent felony.)
I had an entertaining three-strikes case in my court. The defendant had committed the two prior serious felonies of residential burglary.
As soon as he got out of prison, he entered a Target store, without any money, and stole a single video. Because of his priors, the DA could and did, file this as a three-strikes case. The defendant was facing a mandatory 25 years to life in prison. In essence, he would be in prison for the rest of his life.
What was unique about the case was the name of the video he stole. It was “Dumb and Dumber.” I referred to his case as the case of “Dumb, Dumber, and Dumbest.”
(I did strike one of the prior convictions in this case, and I sentenced the defendant to eight years in prison. (He would serve 4-6).
Prior to the three strikes law, that would have been an overly harsh and cruel sentence. With the three strikes law, the defense attorney begged me to strike a strike, and he and his client were overjoyed when I reduced the sentence from life to eight years.
Sadly, a few judges refuse to exercise their discretion to reduce such sentences because it is politically risky. If this defendant’s case had been assigned to one of those judges, the defendant would have spent the rest of his life in prison for stealing a single video.)
The Car Thief Who Couldn’t Find the Parking Lot Exit
I presided over case where a recently released parolee attempted to steal a brand-new Lexis from the dealership.
The “perp” somehow got Lexus keys from a lock box. He unlocked the car, started the engine, and pulled away.
Unfortunately for him, he did not plan his escape. He kept driving up and down aisles searching for the exit. By the time he located the exit driveway, a quick-thinking salesperson had pulled a car into that aisle, blocking the exit.
The defendant was arrested at the scene for felony auto theft. Because of his criminal record, that stupid stunt earned him a lengthy sentence in state prison.