Like mandatory minimums, three strike laws were passed in an effort by politicians to appear "tough on crime" by limiting the ability of judges perceived as being too lenient from determining appropriate sentencing. Combined with anti-drug laws, such sentencing laws help keep US prisons overcrowded.
Today's example of the intersection of drug laws, tough sentencing, and police encounters via the Houston Chronicle:
Police Chief Henry Porretto said [Reginald] Davis had been convicted on two previous drug charges and was facing a possible third strike. He said Davis grabbed something from the seat of the car and put it in his pocket before fleeing. An internal police investigation completed before Davis filed a complaint determined that officers used necessary force, Poretto said.
The lawsuit [filed by Davis] alleges that on March 19 Davis was asleep in his car on the seawall, illegal in Galveston without a camping permit. Santos allegedly awakened Davis at 1:45 a.m. and asked him to place his hands on the hood of the police car. Davis ran onto the beach, was tased and tackled as he staggered to his feet, according to the lawsuit. Davis alleges that Santos, Chapman and three other officers beat him as he lay in the surf and forced his head under water.
In the lawsuit, Davis says he was unaware of the city ordinance when he parked at the seawall to sleep after realizing he was a lot more tired than he thought.
The local ABC affiliate has more details:
"I made a mistake, I ran," Davis admitted. "I shouldn't have did that. You know, but what happened after I ran, it wasn't called for."
…Galveston Police Chief Henry Porretto said, "Our officers were faced with a violent offender, who ran, assaulted an officer and continually resisted arrest."
Police say they believe Davis ran toward the beach to get rid of some type of evidence. Davis claims he ran because he was afraid he'd go to jail due to outstanding traffic issues.
"The offender put our officers' lives in jeopardy, and their response was appropriate," Chief Porretto insisted.
Davis was eventually charged with evading arrest and spent 100 days behind bars, according to ABC News. Maybe Davis would've fled after being caught sleeping in his car absent the threat of spending the rest of his life in jail for it because of two prior drug-related offenses, but such a threat may be a more powerful motivator to flee than not to break the law, especially a city ordinance you may not even know you're breaking.
You can watch video of the incident in the news clip below: