Getting tough on crime, in many cases petty theft and other misdemeanors, has taken a hit at the polls in California. On November 3, Proposition 20 went down by a large margin, defeated with 61.72% of the electorate voting no to a proposed initiated state statute that would have addressed a series of criminal sentencing and supervision laws enacted from 2011 to 2016.
Proposition 20 would have made certain crimes chargeable as felonies that had previously been misdemeanors, including:
Unlawful use of a credit card
The initiative would also have established two other types of crime in the state code, serial crime and organized retail crime. The accused could be charged for these crimes as “wobblers”, or crimes that could be charged either as misdemeanors or felonies.
In addition, individuals convicted of certain crimes classified as wobblers or felonies before 2014 would have to submit DNA samples for both state and federal databases. It also would have restricted parole for offenses that are currently considered to be non-violent.
What Proposition 47 does
Fortunately for those individuals who are currently serving sentences or have been charged with nonviolent crimes, the defeat of the recent initiative will allow them to continue to seek relief under current law. While Proposition 47, adopted by California voters in November of 2014, was designed to reduce prison sentences, it also corrected outdated and burdensome sentencing guidelines for drug and theft crimes.
Under Proposition 47, an individual can have a prior felony reduced to a misdemeanor and have their sentence reduced as well. A reduction of a felony to a misdemeanor can mean a reduced sentence, a much smaller fine and prison time in a county jail as opposed to state or federal prison.
Proposition 47 primarily affects sentencing for theft and drug crime. Sentencing for theft crimes, including Grand Theft, are reduced. Theft of any property under $950 is a misdemeanor, which includes commercial burglary, check fraud or forgery and petty theft.
Drug crime that includes simple possession for methamphetamine and concentrated cannabis are a misdemeanor.
If you have been charged with theft such as shoplifting, check fraud or forgery, or accused of drug possession, it is important to have a strong and experienced criminal defense attorney on your side who knows California law and will help you build a strong defense against charges.