Proposition 47, a law approved by California voters, has reduced a number of non-violent felonies to misdemeanors. This has benefited a number of first-time and low-level offenders and helped reduce their chances of going back to jail by giving them the chance to avoid a felony criminal sentence.
Juvenile offenders are also able to benefit from Prop 47, to reduce their criminal sentences and give them a better chance of staying out of jail and going on to have a bright future. Individuals who faced felony charges as juveniles and parents of juvenile offenders should talk to a criminal defense attorney about how Prop 47 can help clear up their criminal record.
What is Prop 47 in California?
Prop 47 is known as the “Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act.” This law reduced penalties for certain non-violent theft and drug crimes in California. This re-classified a number of low-level felonies to misdemeanors. As a misdemeanor, most of these crimes carry a maximum of one year in jail, in addition to fines.
Even though both misdemeanors and felonies are criminal offenses in California, the consequences of a felony criminal record are much harsher. As a convicted felon, individuals are restricted from a number of opportunities, including public assistance, scholarships, and certain jobs.
Prop 47 also provided for resentencing for individuals charged or convicted of these crimes before the law went into effect.
A California appeals court decision determined that Prop 47 reductions also apply to juveniles.
How Does Prop 47 Apply to Juvenile Offenses
In California, juveniles accused of certain crimes can face penalties in the juvenile justice system or even in criminal court. However, most juvenile offenses fall into one of the following categories:
- Minor in possession of alcohol
- Marijuana possession
- Public intoxication
- Petty theft
- Underage DUI
- Possession of drug paraphernalia
Juveniles accused of similar crimes as adults generally face a different type of sentencing. A conviction in juvenile court is known as a “true finding.” Juveniles who are not eligible for sentencing alternatives may be sentenced to confinement.
Juveniles who were convicted of Prop 47 criminal charges before the law went into effect may be eligible to have their sentenced reduced from a felony offense to a misdemeanor. Juveniles now facing these Prop 47 charges may be facing misdemeanor charges for what were previously felonies or “wobblers.”
What is the difference between a felony and misdemeanor conviction for juveniles?
As with adults, juveniles convicted of a misdemeanor generally face reduced penalties compared to felonies. For example, juveniles convicted of a felony may have a DNA sample collected and stored in a criminal database. However, this DNA collection generally does not apply to misdemeanors.
Misdemeanor charges are also generally more open to sentencing alternatives. Felonies may require sentencing in a Youth Authority facility or even adult prison. Misdemeanors may result in county detentions (juvenile hall), probation, or sentencing alternatives, including:
- Residential treatment facilities
- Out-of-home placement/treatment programs
- Youthful Offender Treatment Program (YOTP)
- Girls in Motion (GIM)
Juvenile Felony Offenders with DNA Samples
As part of the court case that decided Prop 47 applied to juveniles, the court determined that a DNA sample taken from the juvenile convicted of a Prop 47 felony could have the state destroy the DNA sample. This may mean that individuals who were previously convicted of one these property or drug crimes as a juvenile may be able to seek to have their DNA sample removed from the state database.
Prop 47 Offenses That Apply to Juveniles
Talk to your criminal defense attorney if you were previously convicted of certain felony offenses as a juvenile, including:
- Grand theft (worth less than $950);
- Shoplifting (worth less than $950);
- Check forgery (under $950);
- Receiving stolen property (worth less than $950); and
- Possession of a controlled substance.
East Bay Criminal Defense Attorney
East Bay criminal defense lawyer Lynn Gorelick has more than 30 years of experience defending her clients facing criminal charges, including juveniles tried as adults. She understands how to approach the individual facts of each case for the greatest chance of success. If you or a loved one is facing criminal charges in Alameda or Contra Costa County, contact East Bay Criminal Defense Attorney Lynn Gorelick.