California Proposition 47, approved by voters in November 2014, reclassified certain felony offenses as misdemeanors. While this measure does not apply to every case, it goes a long way toward reducing prison sentences for nonviolent offenders. Here is a look at how it affects Californians accused of certain crimes:
About Proposition 47
Proposition 47, titled “Criminal Sentences. Misdemeanor Penalties. Initiative Statute.” on the ballot measure, was put on the ballot by petition signatures in 2014. The measure reduced certain “nonserious and nonviolent” drug and property crimes to misdemeanor offenses. It also allows offenders who are currently serving time for these offenses to apply for sentence reductions.
The measure is expected to save the state hundreds of millions of dollars in prison costs and other criminal justice system expenses; these savings will be spent on school truancy and dropout prevention (25 percent), mental health and substance abuse treatment (65 percent), and victim services (10 percent).
Offenses That Qualify for Proposition 47 Reductions
Proposition 47 is expected to affect approximately 40,000 people annually, according to estimates from the California Legislative Analyst’s Office. The measure reduces penalties for the following crimes:
- Grand theft: Theft of property worth $950 or less is normally charged as petty theft (a misdemeanor or infraction), but in certain cases it can be charged as grand theft (a wobbler). Before Proposition 47, stealing certain types of items (e.g. a vehicle) or having a history of theft-related offenses could open you up to grand theft charges, rather than petty theft charges. Under Proposition 47, theft of property worth $950 or less can no longer be charged as grand theft simply because of the type of property involved or the defendant’s criminal history.
- Shoplifting: Shoplifting property worth $950 or less is a misdemeanor under Proposition 47.
- Receiving stolen property: Similar to grand theft and shoplifting, receiving stolen property worth $950 or less is now a misdemeanor.
- Writing bad checks: It is 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 it would be a wobbler).
- Check forgery: Forging a check worth $950 or less is a misdemeanor under Proposition 47 (unless the offender commits identity theft in connection with check forgery, in which case it is still a wobbler).
- Drug possession: Under previous law, possession of illicit drugs for personal use was a misdemeanor, felony, or wobbler depending on the amount and type of drug. Under Proposition 47, possession for personal use is always a misdemeanor.
However, it is important to note that these sentence reductions do not apply to all offenders, even if the charge is covered by the prop. Offenders who have prior convictions for serious or violent crimes (such as murder, rape, certain gun crimes) and registered sex offenders do not qualify for Proposition 47 sentence reductions.