Three strikes laws around the country are notorious for being very harsh to repeat offenders. The laws have been repeatedly criticized in some states for producing somewhat ridiculously harsh sentences for smaller crimes that are committed as the third strike. For example, in California, a man was sentenced to 25 years to life for stealing a pair of white socks worth $2.50, because this was his third crime.
In Illinois, people who are eligible for sentencing under the three strikes law are referred to as habitual criminals. Classification as a habitual criminal means that, if a defendant satisfies all the requirements of the law, he or she will have his sentence for the third conviction for a qualifying crime enhanced to life imprisonment.
A habitual criminal is a person with two prior state or federal convictions for offenses that are classified as Class X felonies, criminal sexual assault, aggravated kidnapping, or first degree murder under Illinois law, and who is later convicted of another Class X felony, sexual assault, or first degree murder. A Class X felony is one of the most serious charges that a defendant can face, and it carries a sentence of a minimum of six years in prison, and a maximum of 30. In addition to the habitual criminal law, a person can be charged as a Class X offender because of his or her prior record; for example, if the person has two or more prior convictions for Class 1 or 2 felonies or higher, he or she may be sentenced as a Class X offender.