This year, California voters made clear that they don’t think it’s costly or wise to send people who commit minor offenses to prison. In November voters passed Prop 47, “the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act,” which reclassifies many drug possession crimes and property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors and dedicates the money saved to mental health and drug treatment, services for victims, and K-12 safety and crime prevention.
Shoplifting, theft, and forgery must now generally be charged as a misdemeanor if the value of the property is $950 or less. Previously DA’s were able to charge petty shoplifting as a felony if the person formed the intent to steal before entering the store or had three or more previous shoplifting convictions. Previously forgery could be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor.
Drug possession has also been downgraded to a misdemeanor. Drug selling, and the possession of drugs for the purpose of selling, remains a felony.
What will be the benefits of Proposition 47? The money saved will go towards crime prevention, including mental health and drug treatment programs. People currently charged with a qualifying offense will have the charge automatically reclassified as a misdemeanor. People serving a sentence for a qualifying offense may file a petition to have the charge reclassified as a misdemeanor. People who have already done their time may file an application to do so within three years.
This is a general summary of Proposition 47. If you have a specific question about how the new law applies you should ask me or another lawyer.