Not Automatic for All: What Prop 47 Does Not Do

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Nov 18, 2014

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Recently, Californians voted to reform criminal sentencing with the passage of Proposition 47. Prop 47, which some supporters have referred to as “The Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act,” reduces the classification of most non-serious and non-violent property and drug crimes from a felony to a misdemeanor.

What Prop 47 Aims to Change

Specifically, Prop 47 requires misdemeanor sentencing instead of felony sentencing for the following offenses:

  • Shoplifting property that is worth up to $950;
  • Grand theft of property that is worth up to $950;
  • Receiving stolen property that is worth up to $950;
  • Forgery of a check, bond, or bill worth up to $950;
  • Writing a fraudulent check, draft, or order worth up to $950;
  • Writing a bad check worth up to $950;
  • Personal use of most illegal drugs, including methamphetamine, heroin, cocaine, prescription drugs and other controlled substances. 

This will drastically decrease California’s prison population which will simultaneously save hundreds of millions of state dollars. The money saved will be funneled back into K-12 school programs, victim services, and mental health and drug treatment.

Prop 47’s Can Work Retroactively to Reduce Previously Sentenced Felonies

In addition to limiting felony convictions, Prop 47 also works retroactively to permit those who have been sentenced with a felony for the previously listed offenses to seek resentencing and have their felony conviction reduced to a misdemeanor.

CourthouseProp 47 Limitations: Reduction Not Automatic

Just because Prop 47 can be used to reduce a prior felony does not mean that it will apply automatically nor can it be applicable for everyone. Prop 47 requires a thorough review of the offender’s criminal history and risk assessment of individuals prior to resentencing. If you have been charged with a violent offense, such as rape, murder, child molestation, or certain gun offenses and sex offenses, you will not be able to use Prop 47 to reduce an affected offense.

Prop 47 is Not a Cookie Cutter, Case-by-Case Review is Necessary

Although Prop 47 lists specific offenses that can only be sentenced for misdemeanors, the review process of each petition will not only be reviewed by the DA’s office. It will also be reviewed by a judge. Depending on the judge assigned to the petition, judicial discretion may change drastically. 

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