Definition of three strikes in US English:

three strikes


  • usually as modifier Legislation providing that an offender's third felony is punishable by life imprisonment or another severe sentence.

    • ‘The three strikes law should only apply exclusively to violent criminals.’
    • ‘It is significant that the expression of public disapproval embodied in the Western Australian three strikes law is directed in practice so narrowly at youth offenders.’
    • ‘Under a three strikes policy in Tasmania and Queensland - and in South Australia from next month - drivers nabbed for a third time lose their cars forever.’
    • ‘California already locks up more three strikes offenders than the other states that have similar repeat offender laws on their books put together.’
    • ‘Most states with three strikes legislation confine it to serious violent crime.’
    • ‘I also oppose the three strikes law and all other rigid sentencing regimes.’
    • ‘California, which has the three strikes system, now spends more on its prison system than on education, say civil rights groups.’
    • ‘It's hard to say whether it's a good or bad thing that the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to review the three strikes law.’
    • ‘The three strikes law is supposed to apply exclusively to violent criminals, and if it must stay on the books, it should still only apply to them.’
    • ‘But the three strikes law is anything but narrowly tailored.’
    • ‘I see amending the three strikes law as a step towards healing and reconciling families and communities.’
    • ‘California has the toughest and most vigorously enforced three strikes law in the nation.’
    • ‘It's illegal, but there's no three strikes law.’
    • ‘The current three strikes law has also hung in there as long as it has because there has been no detectable swing in public sentiment toward changing the law.’
    • ‘The three strikes law made lying acceptable in some way and perhaps required her lie.’
    • ‘But if there's a prisoner-rights issue that screams for redress, it's three strikes.’
    • ‘They didn't vote to put nonviolent offenders in prison for life for stealing a slice of pizza or writing a bad check, but that's what the outcome of three strikes has been thus far.’
    • ‘Almost 60 percent of California's three strikes cases involve nonviolent offenses in which the courts hand down sentences of 25 years to life.’
    • ‘The Supreme Court will rule on the three strikes law this term.’
    • ‘That makes him eligible for life in prison under California's three strikes law and the prosecutor in the case is asking the judge to impose that life sentence.’


1990s: from the phrase three strikes and you're out (with allusion to baseball).