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PROPOSITION 47 MAKES BIG CHANGES IN CALIFORNIA CRIMINAL LAW
California voters overwhelmingly passed Proposition 47, which will reduce many felonies to misdemeanors and potentially keep tens of thousands of people out of prison. The proposition will go into effect immediately after statewide ballot returns show that it was passed with 59%of the vote. Estimates are that 40,000 offenders annually would be affected by the measure and be eligible for resentencing.
Otherwise known as the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act, the new measure will save the state roughly $200 million in prison costs each year and allow it to comply with court orders to reduce its prison population. That money will go towards programs involving drug addiction and mental health treatment, supporting crime victims and keeping kids in school.
Proposition 47 reduces penalties for certain offenders convicted of nonserious and nonviolent property and drug crimes. The measure also allows certain offenders who have been previously convicted of such crimes to apply for reduced sentences. In addition, the measure requires any state savings that result from the measure be spent to support truancy (unexcused absences) prevention, mental health and substance abuse treatment, and victim services. These changes are described in more detail below.
The Law Office of Kevin G. Little is primed to help you and your loved ones obtain the maximum benefit of Proposition 47. Schedule your consultation today!
Reduction of Existing Penalties
This measure reduces certain nonserious and nonviolent property and drug offenses from wobblers or felonies to misdemeanors. The measure limits these reduced penalties to offenders who have not committed certain severe crimes listed in the measure—including murder and certain sex and gun crimes. Specifically, the measure reduces the penalties for the following crimes:
Grand Theft. Under former law, theft of property worth $950 or less is often charged as petty theft, which is a misdemeanor or an infraction. However, such crimes can sometimes be charged as grand theft, which is generally a wobbler. For example, a wobbler charge can occur if the crime involves the theft of certain property (such as cars) or if the offender has previously committed certain theft-related crimes. This measure would limit when theft of property of $950 or less can be charged as grand theft. Specifically, such crimes would no longer be charged as grand theft solely because of the type of property involved or because the defendant had previously committed certain theft-related crimes.
Shoplifting. Under former law, shoplifting property worth $950 or less (a type of petty theft) is often a misdemeanor. However, such crimes can also be charged as burglary, which is a wobbler. Under this measure, shoplifting property worth $950 or less would always be a misdemeanor and could not be charged as burglary.
Receiving Stolen Property. Under former law, individuals found with stolen property may be charged with receiving stolen property, which is a wobbler crime. Under this measure, receiving stolen property worth $950 or less would always be a misdemeanor.
Writing Bad Checks. Under former law, writing a bad check is generally a misdemeanor. However, if the check is worth more than $450, or if the offender has previously committed a crime related to forgery, it is a wobbler crime. Under this measure, it would be a misdemeanor to write a bad check unless the check is worth more than $950 or the offender had previously committed three forgery related crimes, in which case they would remain wobbler crimes.
Check Forgery. Under former law, it is a wobbler crime to forge a check of any amount. Under this measure, forging a check worth $950 or less would always be a misdemeanor, except that it would remain a wobbler crime if the offender commits identity theft in connection with forging a check.
Drug Possession. Under former law, possession for personal use of most illegal drugs (such as cocaine or heroin) is a misdemeanor, a wobbler, or a felony—depending on the amount and type of drug. Under this measure, such crimes would always be misdemeanors. The measure would not change the penalty for possession of marijuana, which is currently either an infraction or a misdemeanor.
Change in Penalties. As the above crimes are nonserious and nonviolent, most offenders are currently being handled at the county level. Under this measure, that would continue to be the case. However, the length of sentences—jail time and/or community supervision—would be less. A relatively small portion—about one-tenth—of offenders of the above crimes are currently sent to state prison (generally, because they had a prior serious or violent conviction). Under this measure, none of these offenders would be sent to state prison. Instead, they would serve lesser sentences at the county level.
Resentencing of Previously Convicted Offenders
This measure allows offenders currently serving felony sentences for the above crimes to apply to have their felony sentences reduced to misdemeanor sentences. In addition, certain offenders who have already completed a sentence for a felony that the measure changes could apply to the court to have their felony conviction changed to a misdemeanor. However, no offender who has committed a specified severe crime could be resentenced or have their conviction changed. In addition, the measure states that a court is not required to resentence an offender currently serving a felony sentence if the court finds it likely that the offender will commit a specified severe crime. Offenders who are resentenced would be required to be on state parole for one year, unless the judge chooses to remove that requirement.
Funding for Truancy Prevention, Treatment, and Victim Services
The measure requires that the annual savings to the state from the measure, as estimated by the Governor’s administration, be annually transferred from the General Fund into a new state fund, the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Fund. Under the measure, monies in the fund would be divided as follows:
25 percent for grants aimed at reducing truancy and drop-outs among K-12 students in public schools.
10 percent for victim services grants.
65 percent to support mental health and drug abuse treatment services that are designed to help keep individuals out of prison and jail.