Proposition 47 – What You Need To Know

Proposition 47

Having a felony record or being classified as a felon is something that most people regret or are embarrassed of, particularly if they have moved on in life from their past mistakes. California Proposition 47, known as the Reduced Penalties for Some Crimes Imitative, was passed by the voters of California on November 4, 2014.  Prop 47 reclassified a number of “non-serious, non-violent property and drug crimes” from felonies to misdemeanor offenses.

Prop 47 crimes qualifying to be reduced to a misdemeanor

Crimes which were charged as felonies before the Prop 47 came to effect may now be charged as misdemeanors.  These crimes include:

Drug possession felonies: Violations of health and safety codes on sections 11350, 11357(a) or 11377 (i.e., the use of most illegal drugs).

Felony on forgery, fraud and theft: $950 or less, offenses have been classified as misdemeanors, including:

Shoplifting with stolen property not exceeding $950.

Grand theft with the stolen property having a value not exceeding $950.

Being a recipient of stolen property whose value is not more than $950.

Forgery, with the forged check, bill or bond having a value not exceeding $950.

Fraud, with the fraudulent check, order or draft not exceeding $950.

Writing bad check with a value not exceeding $950

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Changing Your Record

For those with the felonies described above on their record, making a filing with the county they were convicted in can result in their felony being reduced to a misdemeanor, regardless of whether they have served a prison sentence for the offense.  If approved by the court, the person will no longer be treated as a felon, may have their firearm rights restored, and they may legally answer that they have never been convicted of a felony for employment purposes. Relief under Prop 47 is not automatic, however, it does not always require a hearing, and most California courts have shown a willingness to embrace the spirit of the new law.  To be eligible for relief under Prop 47 qualifying felons must petition the courts by November 2017.

Resentencing Incarcerated Offenders

Inmates qualifying for Prop 47 relief who are serving prison sentences, may petition for re-sentencing at the discretion of a judge, and could qualify for early release from prison. Reducing qualifying felony charges to misdemeanors is not automatic.  Rather, Prop 47 requires a “thorough review” of the offender’s criminal history and a risk assessment prior to re-sentencing to ensure the public is adequately protected.  For offenders with prior serious crimes such as rape or child molestation, Prop 47 relief will not be available.

 Impact of Prop 47

For those with criminal records, Prop 47 has provided an opportunity to put felonies and the stigma and limitations that come with them in the past. Inmates and those awaiting trial have benefitted even more, as Prop 47 has given them a chance at freedom or lighter sentencing.

Prop 47 will ease the burden on our criminal justice system, as it will result in the release of thousands of inmates serving time for non-violent offenses, and prevent countless people from being incarcerated for non-serious offenses that do not warrant lengthy prison sentences.

The greatest effect of Prop 47 will be on the way drug cases as handled in the California criminal justice system. Drug users will now be receiving shorter sentencing, and instead of being sent to prison and branded as a felon, they will have a better chance at obtaining drug treatment and turning their life around.

Safe Neighborhoods and Schools fund

Prop 47 will also create a Safe Neighborhoods and Schools fund to provide badly needed funding for education, victim compensation, substance abuse and mental health treatment, and crime prevention. Funding for this program will be provided by the State of California from the reduced cost of imprisoning non-violent offenders who have committed non-serious offenses. Some estimates project California will save $50 to 250 million dollars per year from criminal justice costs savings attributed to Prop 47.

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