California has some of the most stringent criminal laws in the country. Criminal offenses in the state are charged as misdemeanors or as felonies depending on the circumstances of your case or your criminal history. In addition to spending time behind bars, the weight of a felony conviction is difficult to shake off from your life. The creation and passage of Proposition 47 in 2014 allow for resentencing considerations for individuals serving a felony conviction for some less serious and non-violent crimes.
If you are still in prison for felony theft crimes like shoplifting, writing back decks, or drug offenses like simple possession, you can petition the court to reduce your felony conviction to a misdemeanor. With time served, this law will allow you to walk free again. Prop 47 also allows defendants who have served their sentence to have their status changed.
Propositions, statutes, and petitions can be challenging to understand since Prop 47 is still a new law. Therefore, seeking legal guidance is key. At Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, we have the knowledge and legal expertise you need to navigate resentencing or change of records in Los Angeles, CA.
Understanding Proposition 47
Proposition 47 is a legal procedure passed as a ballot measure in 2014. The new law under prop 47 allows for a reduction of felonies to misdemeanors. This removes all the disabilities associated with being labeled a felony in California. There is no doubt that the passing of Prop 47 has significantly changed how California law handles certain non-violent property and drug crimes.
This new law can reduce some drug and theft crimes from felonies or wobblers to misdemeanors. A wobbler is an offense that can either attract felony or misdemeanor charges. The prosecutor’s discretion in charging these offenses is based on your criminal record and other factors of your case. After Prop 47, the prosecution will not be able to charge non-violent theft crimes as felonies.
If you have been charged with one of these offenses and received a felony conviction, a resentencing under the new law will see you serve a reduced penalty. The penalties you risk facing after a conviction for a felony in California include the following:
- A prison sentence ranging from sixteen months to three years
- Fines of up to $10,000
In Contrast, a misdemeanor conviction attracts a jail sentence ranging from six months to one year and a fine not exceeding $1,000. Therefore, reducing your charges could significantly impact if you stand accused or are convicted for a crime covered under Prop 47.
If you have served a sentence, you can weigh the possibility of having your conviction reclassified. Dealing with the consequences of a misdemeanor conviction is far better than dealing with felony consequences. When you obtain a resentencing or reclassification of your crime, you will have better luck leading a normal life. Employers could overlook a misdemeanor conviction when considering you for an employment opportunity.
Offenses Covered Under Proposition 47
Some of the offenses that are eligible for reduction to misdemeanors after passing Prop 47 include:
Grand Theft Auto
Grand theft auto is taking another person’s vehicle without their consent and depriving them of its use. Before Prop 47, theft of items like a vehicle or firearms was always charged as a grand theft regardless of the property value. Grand theft is a wobbler which means that there is a possibility of being charged with a felony. A felony conviction, in this case, would see defendants spend up to three years in prison.
Under Prop 47, all theft crimes involving property worth $950 or less will be charged as petty theft regardless of the item's nature. Petty theft is a misdemeanor whose maximum sentence is six months in county jail. Sometimes, the court may spare you from incarceration by sending you to informal probation.
California Penal Code 459.5 defines shoplifting as entering an open business to steal property. Before the passing of Prop 47, entering a business to steal could have been charged as burglary, which is a wobbler. However, the new laws clarify that you will face misdemeanor charges if you enter a business to steal property worth less than $950.
A conviction for petty theft under Prop 47 will see you spend no more than six months in jail.
Petty Theft with a Prior
California PC 666 is the charge filed by prosecutors when you commit a crime of petty theft while having a criminal record, including prior convictions. You will face penalties under this statute if you have at least one prior theft crime conviction and have served jail time for the offense. Another key factor in sentencing under PC 666 is having a prior sex crime or serious felony conviction.
While petty theft is always a misdemeanor, petty theft with a prior is a wobbler. Therefore, the prosecution can choose to file misdemeanor or felony charges. Under the old laws, you could face a felony conviction for petty theft if you have at least three prior convictions. This could cause you to spend between sixteen months and three years in state prison.
With the enactment of Prop 47, you can no longer be charged with petty theft with a prior. Regardless of the number of your past convictions, petty theft is charged as a misdemeanor under the current proposition. The only exception where you could be sentenced under the old law is when your prior conviction involves the embezzlement of a dependent adult under elder abuse laws.
You commit the crime of check fraud when you pass, make, or attempt to use a fictitious check to obtain property or financial gain. Often check fraud charges are based on forgery since the documents are altered to benefit the defendant. After Prop, a forgery, which is a wobbler, will attract misdemeanor charges under the following circumstances:
- The document you forged is a bank bill, check, or money order
- The value of the forged financial document is not more than $950
- You did not violate identity theft laws under PC 530.5
The maximum sentence for check forgery under the new initiative is a year in county jail.
Writing Bad Checks
You are guilty of writing a bad check when you write a check with the knowledge of insufficient funds in the account. Unless the value of the bad check is $450 or less, writing bad checks would attract wobbler charges under the old law. However, Prop 47 amends how a violation of PC 476(a) is handled. Under these new laws, if the value of the bad checks and the instruments used in making the check do not exceed $950, you will be charged with a misdemeanor.
If you have three or more prior convictions for forgery, you may not be eligible for a sentence reduction under prop 47.
California law is stringent on the state's possession, manufacture, and sale of controlled substances. For this reason, many crimes addressed under California Health and Safety Code are charged as wobblers or felonies. Prop 47 has brought a change in the sentencing of the following drug crimes:
- Possession of a controlled substance. Under HSC 11350, you commit a drug possession crime when you possess or control an illegal drug. Before Prop 47, drug possession was charged depending on the nature and quantity of the drug you possessed. With the new law, simple possession of drugs will only attract misdemeanor charges. The only way you could face a felony conviction for simple possession
- Possession of Methamphetamine. Possession of dangerous stimulants like Methamphetamine could attract felony charges before Prop. However, with new laws, violation of Health and Safety Code 11377 can only be charged as a misdemeanor.
- Possession of concentrated cannabis. Although weed is legal in California, possessing concentrated cannabis can attract criminal charges. The conflict between federal and state laws creates more confusion in the sentencing of marijuana possession. With Prop 47, possession of cannabis is a misdemeanor.
The difference between a felony and a misdemeanor drug conviction is significant. After a misdemeanor conviction, you can benefit from drug diversion. Diversion programs allow you to undergo treatment and rehabilitation instead of being behind bars.
Eligibility for Resentencing under Prop 47
Not all individuals facing charges for offenses under Prop 47 or are dealing with a conviction will benefit from the reductions. If you have a prior conviction for the following offenses, the court cannot grant your resentencing petition:
Sex Crime Convictions
If you have a prior conviction for a serious sex crime in California, your felony conviction cannot be reduced to a misdemeanor under Prop 47. Some of these sex crimes include:
- Rape. Under California Penal 261, rape involves non-consensual sexual penetration accomplished by fear or force. Rape is one of the most serious sex crimes and is always charged as a felony. If you have been convicted of rape, your drug or theft crime cannot be reduced to a misdemeanor.
- Sex crimes involving children. California law is stringent on defendants who commit crimes against children. Sex crimes against children include statutory rape, lewd acts with a minor, and child pornography.
- Sexual Battery. CPC 243.4 defines sexual battery as the unlawful touching of another person’s intimate parts for sexual arousal or gratification.
- Forced oral copulation. When you use force or violence to engage in oral sex with another person, you risk facing an arrest and criminal charges for oral copulation by force or fear.
- Indecent exposure. California PC 314 criminalizes exposing your genitals or naked body party in public to annoy or offend another person.
- Hunan or child trafficking for sexual exploitation.
Most sex crimes require mandatory sex offender registration as part of the punishment. Therefore, if you have a record for a crime that mandates sex offender registration, you cannot apply for resentencing under Prop 47. Sometimes, a judge could order you to register as a sex offender if they believe you committed a different crime for sexual gratification.
If you are a registered sex offender owing to the judge’s order, you can still have your felony theft of property crimes reduced to misdemeanors.
Serious of Violent Felonies
Other criminal convictions that could impact your eligibility for resentencing under Prop 47 are serious and violent felonies, including:
- Sexually violent crimes. Under California law, a sex crime is considered violent when you engage in a sexual act using force, fear, or violence to prevent the alleged victim from resisting.
- Murder and attempted murder. Under California PC, murder is defined as the unlawful killing of another person with a malice afterthought. Whether or not you succeed in killing the person, the consequences of an attempt on someone’s life are grave.
- Gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. Vehicular manslaughter is the killing of another person while driving a vehicle. If you were intoxicated at the time of the crime, you could face charges under PC 191.5. Although premeditation is not necessary to secure a conviction under this statute, having such a conviction in your record renders you ineligible for resentencing under Prop 47.
- Felonies that attract life imprisonment or capital punishment. A felony conviction on your record can affect sentencing even for minor offenses. Therefore, if your previous felony conviction is punishable by life or death, you cannot have other felonies reduced to misdemeanors.
Appealing a Sentence Under Prop 47
If you have suffered a conviction for a felony that could be a misdemeanor under Prop 47, you could apply for resentencing. The court accepts appeals from individuals serving their sentence and those who have already completed it. The process for resentencing is similar whether you are still in prison or have completed your term.
The first step when seeking a resentencing is checking your eligibility. Your attorney can help you assess your conviction's nature and criminal record. If you believe you qualify for the action, you can file a petition at the court where you were convicted. The judge will then assess your case before granting or denying the petition.
If you meet the eligibility. The only exception the judge could make in changing your felony to a misdemeanor is that you threaten public safety. In determining the level of threat, the judge will consider the following:
- Your disciplinary record and efforts to be rehabilitated
- Your criminal history
- Other relevant factors
Relief for Defendants Serving their Sentence
If you are in prison or still serving your sentence, a successful petition will reduce your sentence significantly. The maximum sentence for a misdemeanor conviction in California is one year in county jail. If you have completed a year in prison, the court will give you credit for time served and order a release.
Relief for Individuals who have Served their Sentence
Even when you have served your prison sentence, a felony conviction will linger in your record and affect multiple aspects of your life. Although resentencing for an already served sentence is not urgent, it can help you avoid the negative consequences associated with your felony conviction. When your felony record is changed to a misdemeanor, you can serve on a jury and gain entry into the armed forces.
Frequently Asked Questions on Prop 47
With the passing of Prop 47, the course of your criminal conviction can take a drastic change. However, you must meet the eligibility criteria for a resentencing and follow the right procedure to have your felony convictions reduced to a misdemeanor. The following are frequently asked questions on Prop 47:
- How many cases can I reduce to misdemeanors under Prop 47?
Sentence reduction and conviction reclassification under Prop 47 covers various non-violent property and drug crimes. It is common for one person to have multiple convictions for different offenses. Fortunately, there is no limit to the number of cases you can reduce under the new law. However, you must meet the eligibility and petition the court separately for each conviction. Reducing multiple convictions can be complicated and time-consuming. Therefore, seeking legal guidance is critical.
- How long is Prop 47 available?
In the absence of good cause, you have up to three years to file for resentencing or status change after your felony conviction in California. Therefore, this is a service you want to take advantage of as soon as possible. You should check your eligibility and file the petition before your window elapses.
- Can the court deny my petition to reduce a felony to a misdemeanor?
Although Prop 47 clearly states the offenses for which you can apply for reclassification or resentencing, there are times when the judge could deny your petition. One of the main reasons for denial is failure to meet the eligibility criteria. Therefore, you need to have an attorney look into your case to determine your eligibility before you begin the petition process.
Another factor that could cause a denial is if, in their investigation, the court finds that you haven’t been rehabilitated from your criminal ways or it's not in the best interests of justice. Sometimes, your case could be denied wrongfully or based on the prosecutor’s objection to your petition. If you believe that you are a victim of wrongful denial or inaccurate findings by the judge, you can reapply for resentencing after one year of the denial.
- Can I proceed with a petition under Prop 47 if I need to remember the details of my case?
Before you begin the petition process, you need to have all your records. This allows for eligibility checks. If you do not remember your case details, a skilled attorney can complete a search and pull all the records you need.
- How Long does it take to obtain a conviction of conviction classification under Prop 47?
Under normal circumstances, you will take up to two months to file and grant your petition. Some factors that slow down the process are that courts only handle some cases as soon as they are filed. If your conviction is old and there is difficulty finding your records, the process will be prolonged.
- Am I obliged to disclose my case after a reduction from a felony to a misdemeanor under Prop 47?
Yes. Unless you have sealed or expunged a criminal conviction, you must disclose it to employers or professional boards as you seek a license. However, you can disclose the conviction as a misdemeanor instead of a felony after the reduction. Often, a misdemeanor conviction will carry less stigmatization and collateral consequences.
- Will Prop 47 restore my gun rights?
Although resenting under Prop 47 will eliminate some of the disabilities associated with your felony conviction, the action will not restore your gun rights. Your conviction remains a felony for firearm purchase, use, or ownership purposes. If you seek to restore your firearm rights, you can file a petition under California Penal Code 17. The court could lift the firearm ban if your case did not involve domestic violence.
Furthermore, some misdemeanor convictions carry a ten-year firearm ban. In this case, reducing your conviction from a felony to a misdemeanor would not impact the loss of gun rights.
Find a Knowledgeable Criminal Lawyer Near Me
Due to the strict laws and the minimum penalties for non-violent crimes in California, many good people have been harshly punished and are spending decades in prison. After the passing of Prop 47 by the people of California, defendants facing charges or serving a sentence for low-level theft and drug crimes could have their situation changed significantly.
Proposition 47 takes some non-violent crimes charged as wobblers or felonies and reduces them to misdemeanors. If you are still serving your sentence, this initiative means you will spend time behind bars. However, your status could be adjusted if you have completed the sentence. A misdemeanor conviction on your record carries less stigma and collateral consequences than a felony conviction.
Not all individuals facing charges or having prior convictions for crimes addressed under Prop 47 will benefit from the reductions. Therefore, you will need a skilled attorney to review your records. At Los Angeles Criminal Attorney, we will thoroughly review the circumstances of your case and guide you toward filing a resentencing or reclassification petition in Los Angeles, CA. Contact us at 424-333-0943.