Data Dashboards: Trends in Felony Court Case Processing

The interactive dashboards below show trends in felony court case processing after Criminal Justice Realignment and highlight the impacts of Proposition 47. In 2011, Realignment shifted the responsibility for incarceration and supervision of many nonviolent felons from the state to the county level. Realignment specifically impacted sentencing and supervision for most non-serious, non-violent, and non-sexual offenses, also known as 1170(h) offenses.

Proposition 47, which passed on November 4, 2014, reduced a number of theft and drug felonies to misdemeanors. These changes altered the population of individuals sentenced and supervised by the counties, leaving county probation and the courts with the responsibility for higher severity and more complex felony cases.  The dashboards below highlight trends in felony sentencing, filings of petitions for supervision modification/revocation, and warrants for failure to appear (FTAs).

Felony Sentencing Trends

Realignment resulted in four distinct sentence types for felony cases, including, straight, split, probation and prison. Probation allows individuals to remain in the community under county probation supervision for all or a portion of their sentence. They may serve up to one year in jail as a condition of their supervision. Straight and split sentences can be imposed for Penal Code § 1170(h) offenses which include non-serious, non-violent, and non-sexual felony offenses. With a straight sentence, an individual will serve their full term in county jail and then be released without supervision. With a split sentence, an individual typically “splits” their term between jail time and community supervision. Occasionally individuals with a split sentence will serve their entire term supervised in the community with no jail time. With a prison sentence, the individual will be incarcerated, serving their sentence in state prison, and typically be released on parole or PRCS.

The dashboard below displays the number of felony sentences, by type and the relative proportions for each sentence type. Total felony sentences dropped dramatically after Proposition 47 went into effect in the fourth quarter of 2014. Despite an overall numerical decrease in sentences imposed, the relative proportions of each sentence type remained stable. Although probation sentences showed the largest numerical drop after Proposition 47, they remained the most common sentence type. Straight 1170(h) sentences showed the greatest change in proportion, decreasing by over 56% after Proposition 47.

Source: Quarterly sentencing data reported to Criminal Justice Services, Judicial Council of California, pursuant to PC § 131555.
 

Straight vs. Split Sentences

The dashboard below compares the numbers of straight and split 1170(h) sentences. In the last quarter of 2014, straight and split sentences declined sharply, likely as a result of Proposition 47. On January 1st, 2015, California Rule of Court, rule 4.415(a) created a presumption that a split sentence would be imposed by the courts for 1170(h) sentences. Since then, trends in the numbers of straight and split sentences have been similar

Source: Quarterly sentencing data reported to Criminal Justice Services, Judicial Council of California, pursuant to PC § 131555.
 

Petitions for Modification / Revocation of Supervision

Previously, populations exiting prison were supervised by state parole. Since Realignment, individuals released from prison for non-serious, non-violent, and non-sexual offenses are typically supervised by county probation departments under Post Release Community Supervision (PRCS). Mandatory Supervision (MS) is the community supervision portion of a split sentence. Generally, individuals serve time in jail before release to MS, although occasionally individuals may serve their entire split sentence under MS. As mentioned in the section above, a probation allows individuals to remain in the community under county probation supervision for all or a portion of their sentence. Generally, individuals released from state prison who are not eligible for PRCS are released under state parole supervision.

The dashboard below displays the number and relative proportions of petitions for modification or revocation of supervision, by supervision type. Similar to the drop seen in probation sentences displayed in the first dashboard, petitions for the modification/revocation of probation supervision declined sharply, likely as a result of Proposition 47. From 2013 to 2016 the number of petitions for modification/revocation of parole, PRCS and MS supervision remained relatively stable. This pattern is similar to that observed from 2013 to 2016 in the relative proportion of sentence types.

Source: Quarterly petitions data reported to Criminal Justice Services, Judicial Council of California, pursuant to PC § 131555.
 

Presentence Warrants for Failure to Appear (FTAs) in Felony Cases

The number of warrants for failure to appear (FTAs) in felony cases rose steadily prior to Proposition 47.

The first chart in the dashboard below shows that after the proposition’s passage, the number of felony FTAs dropped. This drop likely corresponds with a simultaneous rise in misdemeanor FTAs, as Proposition 47 reduced a number of offenses from felonies to misdemeanors.

The second chart in the dashboard below displays the number of felony FTAs and the number of felony filings.

The third chart uses the same data, to show the proportion of felony FTAs per felony filing. Viewing felony FTAs as a proportion of felony filings illustrates that FTAs levels have remained relatively stable over time.

Source: Quarterly FTA data reported to Criminal Justice Services, Judicial Council of California, pursuant to Penal Code § 131555.
Felony filings data reported to the Office of Court Research, queried from the Judicial Branch Statistical Information System (JBSIS) on March 3, 2018.

The data presented here are reported to Criminal Justice Services, Judicial Council of California pursuant to Penal Code §131555 which directs the Judicial Council to collect quarterly data from the courts on felony court case processing. The felony filings data presented here are reported to the Office of Court Research, Judicial Council of California and maintained in the Judicial Branch Statistical Information System (JBSIS). The data were extracted from JBSIS on March 3, 2018. Dashboards are refreshed every six months. Please use caution when interpreting data from small counties. For more information, please refer to our Criminal Justice Realignment Resource Center. To view or download the data (and to see any missing data), please download the csv file.

© 2018 Judicial Council of California