In November 2014, the People of the State of California voted to pass Proposition 47. Prop 47 addresses criminal sentences under state law. Most notably, Prop 47 mandates that all simple drug possession charges in California shall be misdemeanors.
Until very recently, in California, all drug possession charges except those involving marijuana were felonies. Just a few years ago, the law was amended to allow certain drug possession crimes to be charged as felonies or misdemeanors. This was a good first step, but it still allowed prosecutorial discretion in deciding what class of offense should be charged. Prop 47 goes further by mandating that all drug possession offenses can now only be charged as misdemeanors. This applies to the possession of cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, PCP, mushrooms, and concentrated cannabis (hashish or hash oil), among other substances. It is important to note that Prop 47 does not apply to other drug charges such as possession for sale, transportation, sales, cultivation and manufacturing. Prop 47 only applies to simple drug possession, all of the other previously listed drug crimes remain felonies in California.
The other main area of focus for Prop 47 is the value of property in theft related crimes. One of the differences between misdemeanor petty theft and felony grand theft is the value of the property taken. Prop 47 mandates that crimes be charged as misdemeanors for theft cases involving property valued at $950 or below. Prop 47 has also made $950 the determining value in possession of stolen property cases as well as check forging and non-sufficient funds check cases.
There are a few exceptions to Prop 47 relief. There are some that apply based on the facts of a certain crime. However, the two exceptions that apply in every case are based on an offender’s criminal record. Defendants who are registered sex offenders or have been convicted of a qualifying super strike offense [crimes listed in Penal Code Section 667(e)(2)(C)(iv)] are not eligible for relief under Prop 47. Such offenders can be convicted of a felony and sentenced accordingly.
Prop 47 applies to all cases including pending charges, charges for which a person is currently serving a sentence and old charges where the sentence has already been executed. The procedure for relief varies slightly depending on the status of the charges. A petition for relief must be filed with the court and served on the District Attorney. The DA will then have a chance to evaluate the petitioner’s criminal record and determine eligibility. A court hearing will only be necessary if there is a disagreement about eligibility. Remember, there are still expungement procedures in place for those who don’t qualify. Expungement Page