Background: House Bill 229 would prevent sentencing from being enhanced for convictions of nonviolent offenses. Under the current Habitual Felony Offenders Act, sentences must be enhanced when an offender commits a third felony. Particularly, sentencing may be enhanced to life in prison for a Class A felony regardless of the class of the two previously occurring felonies. The proposed bill seeks to do away with this enhanced sentencing practice for all nonviolent offenses.
Our Position: We support HB229. The ACLU believes in judicial discretion in the criminal justice system. The HFOA establishes a dangerous “three-strikes and you’re out” precedent that blindly sentences offenders for the crimes they have committed. There is little evidence to suggest that these three-strikes laws result in crime reduction. The ACLU also believes in the constitutional principle of punishments that fit the crime. By requiring sentencing based on the number of crimes an offender may have committed, we veer from this principle and depart from sentencing that seeks to respond to the crime itself.