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Proposition 47 in California sentencing laws stands for the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act, which voters passed in a November 2014 voting session. Low-level theft crimes and drug possession offenses were reclassified to reduced sentences of misdemeanors for those defendants who were qualified for such reductions. Those qualified needed to petition for the reduction of their sentences.

Who Did This Affect?

There were three groups of defendants who could receive this sentence reduction, so long as they had no prior convictions of serious crimes. The three groups are:

  • Those who were facing a felony sentence of theft or drug possession, but had not been officially sentenced,
  • Those who had been convicted and sentenced for felony crimes of low-level theft or drug possession, and were currently on probation or serving time, and
  • Those who had finished serving their time as well as any probation or parole term.

Both the crimes of low-level theft and drug possession had certain criteria that would allow such reductions. The crime of theft was for $950 or less, and possession of drugs had to be for personal use, rather than in amounts indicating future sales on the street.

•	Petty theft with a prior conviction, other than for elder abuse, theft offense, or are required to register as a sex offender

Qualified Drug Possession Criteria

If cocaine, heroin, morphine, or other opiates were found in a person’s possession and were in quantities that indicated only personal use was involved, then the drug possession charge could be lowered to a misdemeanor. Other restricted drugs, known as stimulants, such as methamphetamines, or hallucinogenic drugs derived from psilocybin mushrooms, could be charged and sentenced as a misdemeanor. Concentrated cannabis also became part of this group as qualified for charges and sentencing reductions.

Qualified Theft Offenses

The crime of theft was formerly a “wobbler” crime, meaning it could fall under a misdemeanor or a felony. Under Proposition 47, the following types of theft must meet the listed criteria below to automatically be charged and sentenced as a misdemeanor. *

  • Property theft of less than $950, covered by California Penal Codes 490.2 and § 459.5,
  • Receiving stolen property worth $950 or less, covered by California Penal Code 496(a),
  • Forgery of checks or money orders and other similar financial forms, for a value of $950 or less, covered by California Penal Code 473(b), unless identity theft took place during the same event, covered by California Penal Code § 530.5,
  • Petty theft with a prior conviction, other than for elder abuse, theft offense, or are required to register as a sex offender. Petty theft is covered by California Penal Code 666,
  • Passing checks with insufficient funds for $950 or less, covered by California Penal Code 476(a)(b), unless there are three or more prior convictions under the following California Penal Codes: § 470, § 473, § 475, or § 476. Click here for more information.
  • *These reductions will not apply if a firearm is used while conducting these crimes.

How Proposition 47 Helps Neighborhoods

Money that would have gone to the incarceration of convicted felonies with longer sentences is now distributed to communities to build and maintain drug, mental and health programs for schools. The money saved is divided in this manner: 25 percent to the Department of Education, 10 percent to the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board, and 65 percent to the Board of State and Community Correction.

If you were previously charged with a felony theft or possession of drugs, call us for a consultation to see if you are qualified to have your sentenced reduced. 619-234-2300

Author Photo

Kerry L. Armstrong

Attorney Kerry Armstrong opened up his law firm, the Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, in June 2007. Prior to that, he was employed as the senior associate attorney for a large criminal defense firm in San Diego for nine years, eventually being placed in charge of that firm’s branch office in downtown San Diego. At one point, he was managing six attorneys at that firm, as well as several support staff and law clerks.

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