The justice system in California does not always apply justice equally. As a result, someone caught selling marijuana could spend more time in jail than someone accused of a violent crime. There has been a shift in the treatment of non-violent offenses and crimes that could be better treated with mental health and drug treatment. Proposition 47 is a way for people facing a felony offense to get the charge reduced to a misdemeanor, even for those who have already served their sentence.
What Is Prop 47?
Proposition 47 is known as the Safe Neighborhood and Schools Act. Prop 47 was passed by California voters in 2014 and allows for some felonies to be reduced to misdemeanors. Prop 47 made some non-violent crimes into misdemeanors instead of felonies. The proposition also lowered simple drug possession charges to misdemeanors.
Prop 47 did not just apply to criminal charges from the time the law was passed but may also apply retroactively. This means that someone who had a past felony conviction for a crime that qualified for reduction under Prop 47 could apply to have the past conviction charges reduced to a misdemeanor. Prop 47 is a way to give a second chance to someone who was convicted of a felony for certain non-violent criminal offenses.
Consequences of a Felony Conviction
There are severe consequences of a felony conviction that can follow a defendant for years after serving their sentence. For many misdemeanors, the person charged can avoid jail and may even be able to get a job, public benefits, and scholarships without the criminal record ever being brought up. Unfortunately, that is not the case for felonies.
Felony offenses are treated much more seriously. In addition to longer prison sentences and higher fines, there are consequences that follow a felon long after they serve their time. A felony criminal record can limit future opportunities, making it difficult for a former felon to better themselves and improve life for their families.
Some of the negative consequences of having a felony record include:
- Harder to find a job
- Have to report felony offense for some jobs
- Limit on professional licensing opportunities
- Harder to get housing
- Limits on public benefits
- Limited higher education scholarship opportunities
- Prohibited from owning a firearm
- Limited government contracting opportunities
- Possible voting restrictions
- Disqualified from serving on a jury
- Disqualified from serving in the armed forces
- Limits on holding public office
- Possible limits on Social Security benefits
- Limitations on travel
- Immigration consequences
Reclassify Your California Felony Under Prop 47
Under Prop 47, people who have a past felony conviction for certain crimes can get their record reclassified as a misdemeanor. To be eligible under Prop 47, the individual must also meet other requirements, including no prior convictions for certain sex crimes, violent crimes, or identity theft. The eligible non-violent felonies eligible for reclassification include:
- Simple drug possession
- Petty theft value under $950
- Shoplifting value under $950
- Forgery value under $950
- Writing a bad check under $950
- Receipt of stolen property under $950
If you are not sure if you are eligible, you can talk to your criminal defense attorney about your options. Your California criminal defense lawyer can file reclassification forms with the court to get your charges reduced. Once the felony has been reclassified, you may again be eligible for the benefits that were denied because of a felony record.
Resentencing Under Prop 47
Individuals who are serving a sentence for an eligible offense can be resentenced under Prop 47 to have their charges reduced to a misdemeanor and be sentenced as a misdemeanor. Most misdemeanor offenses have a sentence of up to one year and many misdemeanors are sentenced with probation instead of jail time.
Under California Penal Code 1070.18, a person who "was serving a sentence for a conviction, whether by trial or plea, of a felony or felonies who would have been guilty of a misdemeanor under the act [...] may petition for a recall of sentence before the trial court that entered the judgment of conviction in his or her case to request resentencing"
However, the court may not resentence the petitioner if the court" determines that resentencing the petitioner would pose an unreasonable risk of danger to public safety." The individual may remain imprisoned if there is an unreasonable risk that the petitioner will commit a new violent felony if released.
Talk to an East Bay Criminal Defense Lawyer About How to Get a Felony Reduced to a Misdemeanor
There is a big difference between a conviction for a misdemeanor and a felony conviction. Many California criminal offenses are known as "wobblers" and can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. Your attorney can challenge the prosecutor and advocate to have the charges reduced to a misdemeanor to avoid the penalties associated with a felony conviction.
Lynn Gorelick has more than 39 years of East Bay criminal defense experience and understands the penalties involved with California criminal charges. She understands how to approach the individual facts of each case for the greatest chance of success to keep her clients out of jail. If you are facing felony charges anywhere in Oakland, Alameda County, or Contra Costa County, contact Lynn Gorelick.