California’s Proposition 47, Felonies, and Orange County Courts

Finally, the problem of overcrowding in prisons is beginning to be alleviated. Thanks to California voters, Proposition 47 was passed on November 4th, 2014. This not only begins a process that will lead to less crowded prisons due to fewer felony convictions, but aids in stopping a budget hemorrhaging millions of taxpayer dollars into a system that has been ruled unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court.

Proposition 47 went into effect November 5, 2014 after being passed by California voters the day prior. Essentially, Prop 47 requires misdemeanor sentences instead of felony sentences for certain drug and theft crimes. Prop 47 does not apply to those with prior convictions for serious or violent crimes, as well as registered sex offenders. These prior convictions disqualify offenders from receiving protection from Prop 47.

Persons charged with crimes like drug possession or petty theft will be charged with misdemeanors instead of felonies. What is more, the proposition is meant to reduce the number of criminals who serve time for convictions, as well as reduce the number of offenders who are awarded life sentences for, what the public views as, insignificant crimes such as drug possession and petty theft, so long as those crimes are committed in a non-violent fashion. This also applies to 3-strike candidates.

In addition, this law applies to convicted offenders who are currently serving sentences for these crimes. As such, those who were previously convicted of and are serving time for simple drug possession and petty theft crimes, are non-violent, not registered sex offenders, and do not have a prior criminal history that includes serious criminal conduct, could be released from continuing to serve their sentences depending on their individual case circumstances. However, this is not an automatic change in circumstance. It is recommended you seek the help of an attorney and submit the necessary forms to initiate a hearing. A judge must evaluate your case and decide whether you “…pose a threat…” to the public.

The outcome of this vote is tremendous for those at risk of being charged with simple drug possession or non-violent petty theft. For sometime now, there has been a national discussion regarding the decriminalization of drug possession for personal use. Typically, those charged with this crime spend time in jail, crippling already suffering state budgets meant to house and care for the most threatening members of our society – murderers, rapists, and pedophiles. The U.S. already has the highest per capita rates of inmates in the world, and placing drug users and non-violent thieves unnecessarily added to the exploding budget burden placed on the states.

Folks at risk of being convicted of their third strike may be relieved to find that previous convictions (e.g., more than one drug possession conviction) will no longer be considered eligible for strikes, and, thus the strikes will effectively be erased. Also, individuals incarcerated for a third strike conviction related to drug possession or petty theft, so long as there are no prior convictions for serious or violent crimes, nor are they registered sex offenders, will likely be released from custody without probation given good behavior in prison.

Proposition 47 has serious positive implications for violators of drug possession and non-violent theft laws. For the most accurate information regarding your conviction or case and how Proposition 47 may apply to it, contact the Johnson Criminal Law Group immediately.

Other Prop 47 Links:

Supreme Court ruling

California Voters Guide – Prop 47