CALIFORNIA PROPOSITION 47

Proposition 47 – A History

California Proposition 47, also known as The Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act, was passed by California voters on November 5, 2014. The purpose of the Act was to reduce the charges of many nonviolent felonies to misdemeanors in order to give adolescents and youth a second change to pursue life unhindered by felony charges. The idea was to take those common drug possession and property crimes like shoplifting and reduce them in such a way to remove any stigma that would be associated with a felony and enable people to pursue scholarships and jobs that require non-felony records. 

Its supporters argue that Prop 47 has been quite successful in reducing costs to the taxpayers of California. Because felonies require jail in many cases, they argue, Prop 47 has removed a significant burden on the state’s prison system and enables police departments to refocus their efforts in other directions.  Supporters of the act were bipartisan, ranging from the ACLU to Newt Gingrich, many of whom have praised Prop 47 for its ability to show mercy and increase tax savings. In the two years that the act has been in place, California saw savings of over $150 million dollars that could be rerouted to better use.

Prop 47 includes exceptions for property crimes above $950 and drug possession offenses perpetrated by those whose criminal records included sexual or violent offenses. Because the act included future crimes and those currently incarcerated, the California prison system saw its ranks reduced in one year by 13,000 inmates.

Proponents of Prop 47 also argue that the American public does not have the will or desire to perpetually penalize drug users, nor do they wish their taxes to go to incarcerate people who have mental health issues.  In this light, projections have often been made that Prop 47 will save California hundreds of millions of dollars.

How Does Proposition 47 Work?

Proposition 47 takes certain low-level, nonviolent felony convictions crimes that were previously classified as felonies or wobblers – a “wobbler” is a crime that could be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor – and reduces them into misdemeanors in most circumstances.

To illustrate the difference that Prop 47 can make, consider the following:

As a misdemeanor, the maximum punishment for these crimes is generally:

  • One (1) year in jail; and/or
  • A fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000).

By contrast, even the least serious felonies in California include the following penalties:

  • A minimum of sixteen (16) months, two (2) years or three (3) years in prison; and/or
  • A fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

So, it is clear that, if your crime falls within the authority of Prop 47, your penalties may be significantly reduced.

Crimes that Are Eligible for Proposition 47 Resentencing

The following are crimes that are eligible for Proposition 47 resentencing:

Drug Crimes  

  • Health & Safety Code §11350 – Possession of a controlled substance;
  • Health & Safety Code §11357 – Possession of a concentrated cannabis;
  • Health & Safety Code §11377 – Possession of a methamphetamine;

Fraud Crimes

  • Penal Code §470 – Forgery involving a check, traveler’s check, money order, or other pertinent document, if the value is $950 or less.
  • Penal Code §476a – Bad checks law; if the total value of the check(s) is $950 or less.

Theft Crimes

  • Penal Code §484 – Shoplifting; if the car stolen/taken is valued at $950 or less.
  • Penal Code §487(d)(1) – Grant theft auto; if the car stolen/taken is valued at $950 or less.
  • Penal Code §487(d)(2) – Grant theft firearm; if the stolen firearm is valued at $950 or less.
  • Penal Code §496 – Receipt of stolen goods; if the value of the property received is $950 or less.
  • Vehicle Code §10851 – Grand theft auto; if the car stolen/taken is valued at $950 or less.

Note:  Under Prop 47, in most circumstances, defendants accused of one of the above-listed crimes will only be charged with a misdemeanor. 

Crimes NOT Eligible for Proposition 47 Resentencing

The following crimes are NOT eligible for Proposition 47 resentencing:

Sex crimes

Certain sex crime convictions make a defendant ineligible for a Prop 47 sentence reduction. These include:

  • Penal Code §261 – Rape; most violations of this law make a defendant ineligible under Prop 47.
  • Penal Code §243.4 – Sexual battery.
  • Penal Code §286 – Sodomy
  • Penal Code §288 – Lewd acts with a child.
  • Penal Code §288a – Forced/coerced oral copulation
  • Penal Code §289 – Forcible sexual penetration with a foreign object.
  • Penal Code §311.1, §311.2, §311.3, §311.4, §311.10 and §311.11. Child pornography.
  • Penal Code §314 – Indecent exposure.

Serious or Violent Felonies

Moreover, convictions for certain serious or violent felonies make a person ineligible for Prop 47 consideration. These include:

  • Violent sexual offenses – sex crimes committed by force, threat, retaliation or violence.
  • Sex crimes against a minor under the age of 14;
  • Penal Code §191.5 – Gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated;
  • Penal Code §653(f) – Solicitation to commit murder;
  • Penal Code §245(c) – Assault with a machine gun upon a peace officer/firefighter
  • Penal Code §187 – Murder or attempted murder.

Example #1

Jonathan pled guilty to rape eleven years ago. After 7 years in prison, he was released on parole. Due to the nature of his conviction, Jonathan is required to register as a sex offender in California because his crime fell under the rubric of the Sex Offender Registration Act.

Recently, Jonathan is caught with heroine in his car. He is charged with possession of a controlled substance under Health & Safety Code 11350. Normally, Jonathan’s new case could fall under the purview of Prop 47. However, due to his past conviction for rape, Jonathan will not be eligible for resentencing under Prop 47, because he has a prior conviction that requires him to register as a sex offender.

Essentially, this means that Jonathan’s possession of a controlled substance case will likely be charged as a felony, not a misdemeanor.                                                                       

Example #2

Sylvia has prior convictions for assault and commercial burglary.

Recently, she is charged with check fraud for intentionally and knowingly writing checks totaling $750 with insufficient funds in her account.

Neither assault nor commercial burglary is on the list of crimes that make a defendant ineligible for Prop 47. As such, Sylvia’s current check fraud charges are eligible for Prop 47 resentencing, and her offense could be reduced to a misdemeanor.                                   

How Proposition 47 Resentencing Works

Under Prop 47, if you are a defendant facing felony penalties for one of the listed, eligible crimes, you may be able to apply to a judge for resentencing. If you are successful, your sentence may be reduced to a misdemeanor, and you will be eligible for earlier, or even immediate, release from jail or prison.

When Proposition 47 Will Not Apply 

  • You have prior convictions for serious crimes, including rape, sex crimes involving minors, murder, and others; and
  • You are a defendant who is mandated to register as a sex offender for a prior conviction.   

If you, a friend, a relative or loved one is 1) currently being charged with a felony, 2) currently serving a jail or prison sentence, or 3) have completed your sentence on an “eligible” felony and believe that you may qualify for Prop 47 early release, resentencing or termination of parole/probation, please contact our office for a free consultation.  

How to Get Resentenced

Either you, or your lawyer, may file a petition with the court to have your record changed. If you or a loved one is looking for assistance in resentencing under Prop 47, or you simply have questions which we may answer, please contact us. The initial consultation is free of charge.