Third strike sends man away |

Third strike sends man away

Richard Arnold couldn’t stop breaking the law.

Since 1967, Arnold has had three misdemeanor convictions, 11 felony convictions, and served four prior prison terms. The proverbial final nail was struck when Arnold broke into a South Lake Tahoe vacation home in 1996. With two prior residential burglary convictions in California, that home was Arnold’s third strike.

Even though Arnold, 50, has little history of violence in his criminal record, it didn’t really matter. The law views residential burglaries as a serious felony because of the potential for violence. He was sentenced this month to 25 years to life in a California state prison. He won’t be eligible for parole for 20 years. According to a study released in November, since the “three strikes” law passed in 1994, 4,400 people have been sentenced to 25 years to life.

Arnold confessed to the burglary after being arrested in Nevada for stealing a car. At the time, Arnold said he knew the confession would add time to his sentence, but he didn’t realize he was facing a third strike. Both of his prior burglary convictions were before the passage of the law. California judges do have some discretion under three strikes, but the power is not absolute and it must be found to be “in furtherance of justice.” Arnold’s extensive criminal history left little room for leniency.

In an interview with a probation officer, Arnold accepted the blame for his behavior.

“I am angry at myself as I can in no way justify this crime,” Arnold said. “It was senseless on my part to even do this. I knew it was wrong, but I did not think of the end results.”

Arnold was sent back to Nevada to finish serving his two-to-10-year sentence for stealing a car. He will then be extradited back across the state line to start his California time.

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