Understanding California Proposition 47 & Sentencing Reform

Tomorrow – Tuesday, November 4 – is the day many California residents will hit the voting booths to choose legislative representatives and vote on important statewide propositions. In the past several weeks and months, you've probably heard about some of these important propositions on campaign commercials. One proposition gaining a fair amount of coverage is Prop 47, which aims to reform California's criminal justice system and sentencing policies.

California Proposition 47 – also referred to as the Reduced Penalties for Some Crimes Initiative or The Safe Neighborhood and Schools Act – is a statewide ballot measure that focuses on changing criminal sentencing policies. If prop 47 is passed by voters, it would result in a reduction of classifications for certain nonviolent or non-serious crimes from a felony to a misdemeanor.

Who will be eligible for Prop 47 if it passes?

The main goal behind Prop 47 is to change current and ineffective sentencing policies – many of which have led to overcrowded and overburdened jails and prisons. The move from harsh sentences for non-serious crimes to leniency and rehabilitation services has become a national trend. California's Prop 47 could further lead a wave of change in other states considering comprehensive prison and sentencing reform and is believed to be a safe way to reduce prison population and prison spending.

Prop 47 would apply only to certain nonviolent property and drug crimes, potentially making them misdemeanors rather than felonies. This means defendants would face less severe punishment. The crimes eligible for reduced classification under the initiative include:

  • Shoplifting (Under $950)
  • Grand Theft (Under $950)
  • Receiving Stolen Property (Under $950)
  • Forgery (Under $950)
  • Fraud (Under $950)
  • Writing Bad Checks (Under $950)
  • Personal Use of Most Illegal Substances

Prop 47 also states that in certain cases – especially those involving defendants who have prior convictions for serious or violent crimes – these offenses may still be charged as felonies. Prop 47 would apply generally to nonviolent offenders from the time it is implemented, as well as individuals who are currently incarcerated and serving sentences for crimes that would be reduced under Prop 47.

At Lessem, Newstat & Tooson, LLP, our criminal defense attorneys have seen how the criminal justice system has begun to shift and rollback harsh sentencing guidelines adopted in the 1980's. We routinely fight for clients who face these types of allegations, and should Prop 47 pass, we are available to help individuals serving old sentences to apply for reduced sentencing. Contact our firm today to discuss your case.