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29 to Life for a $20 Theft…Another Failure of the Justice System

A Riverside County man was tragically sentenced to 29 to life in prison for shoplifting less than $21 worth of merchandise from a Home Depot Store in the Lake Elsinore area.

Yes, he had an extensive criminal history. Yes, he was on parole for at least one prior felony conviction. Yes, he has had strikes “stricken” before. And yes, it should have happened again.

According to the local media, Scott Hove, 45, of Riverside County, was previously charged with a third strike offense in Riverside County. In that case, he was charged with drug possession. The District Attorney argued to have Hove sentenced to life in prison but a judge “struck” a strike and gave him two years in prison.

This time, the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office got their wish. Hove’s strike was not stricken by Judge Albert Wojcik, and instead, the judge sentenced Hove to 29 years to life in prison. It’s too bad that part of the District Attorney’s office budget can’t go toward prison housing costs. Maybe this would make them think more seriously about giving out third strike sentences like they are candy bars.

Maybe someone needs to start thinking outside the box for a year or two (or 25). the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation does offer in prison drug and alcohol treatment programs. It is called the California Rehabilitation Center. They offer in-patient treatment and counseling to state prisoners and highly supervised release programs with lengthy parole periods in order to properly supervise inmates upon relase from prison.

I have said before that I am not a liberal defense attorney. Convicted felons should be given appropriate sentences. Life sentences should not be given out to people who shoplift $20 worth of work gloves and wire from Home Depot. Remember, our tax dollars will go to house Mr. Hove and others like him in prison for what could be the rest of his natural life.

Those dollars, hundreds of thousands of dollars could be used to help people such as Mr. Hove. Of course, I understand better than most, that not all convicts can be rehabilitated. Don’t we owe it to our own pocket books to at least try? In this time of financial crisis, shouldn’t we try to rehabilitate criminal offenders? In a County such as Riverside, whose judicial system is so screwed up that they had to bring in judges from all over California to clear out their trial backlog, shouldn’t we be making more significant efforts to free up the judicial system and the prison system for violent inmates or defendants charged with serious and or violent charges?

I encourage any one who reads this and shares my beliefs to write to the ACLU or write to me and I will forward your concerns to the appropriate party. Write to Judge Wojcik and tell him how you feel.

If you have questions about this or any other criminal defense or third strike case call me:

(888) 764-4340 or (818) 783-6473 or email me at: