Proposition 47: The Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act

Overview

Proposition 47 implemented three broad changes to felony sentencing laws. First, it reclassified certain theft and drug possession offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. Second, it authorizes defendants currently serving sentences for felony offenses that would have qualified as misdemeanors under the proposition to petition courts for resentencing under the new misdemeanor provisions. Third, it authorizes defendants who have completed their sentences for felony convictions that would have qualified as misdemeanors under the proposition to apply to reclassify those convictions to misdemeanors.

Felony convictions resentenced or reclassified as misdemeanors under the proposition are considered misdemeanors for all purposes, except that such relief does not permit the person to own, possess, or have in his or her custody or control any firearm.

Early Impacts of Proposition 47 on the Courts

California superior courts received more than 200,000 petitions for resentencing or applications for reclassification during the first 13 months after voters approved Proposition 47. A report prepared by Judicial Council staff, highlights the impacts of the ballot measure on the courts during the first year of implementation.


Reclassification of Theft and Drug Possession Offenses

Theft Offenses
Proposition 4 7 created new misdemeanors and reclassified several felony theft offenses as misdemeanors. The new misdemeanor provisions do not apply to persons with one or more prior convictions for offenses under Penal Code section 667(e)(2)(C)(iv) or for sex offenses that require registration under Penal Code section 290(c). The new provisions include:

  • Shoplifting. The proposition added Penal Code section 459.5 to create a new misdemeanor offense called "shoplifting," punishable by up to 6 months in county jail. Shoplifting would be defined as "entering a commercial establishment with intent to commit larceny while that establishment is open during regular business hours" where the value of the property does not exceed $950. Any other entry into a commercial establishment with intent to commit larceny is burglary. Any act of shoplifting as defined above must be charged as shoplifting. No person charged with shoplifting may also be charged with burglary or theft of the same property.
  • Forgery. Before Proposition 47, forgery under Penal Code section 473 was a wobbler offense. Proposition 47 reclassified forgery of specified instruments involving $950 or less as exclusively a misdemeanor. The misdemeanor provision is not applicable to any person convicted both of forgery and identity theft under Penal Code section 530.5.
  • Insufficient Funds. Before Proposition 47, a violation of Penal Code section 476a was a wobbler offense, except that the offense was strictly a misdemeanor if the total underlying amount did not exceed $450, unless the person was previously convicted of one of several specified theft offenses. Proposition 47 increased the total threshold amount for misdemeanors from $450 to $950 and increased the number of disqualifying prior convictions from one to "three or more."
  • Petty Theft. Proposition 47 added Penal Code section 490.2 to expressly define petty theft as “obtaining any property by theft where the value of the money, labor, real or personal property taken” does not exceed $950. This new definition of petty theft applies notwithstanding Section 487 “or any other provision of law defining grand theft.” (Pen. Code, § 490.2(a).) As such, the new definition of petty theft appears to apply regardless of how specific categories of property are treated under separate statutes. This new provision is not applicable to any theft that may be charged as an infraction “pursuant to any other provision of law.”
  • Receiving Stolen Property. Before Proposition 47, a violation of Penal Code section 496 was a wobbler offense, except that if the value of the property did not exceed $950, the district attorney or grand jury could specify the offense as exclusively a misdemeanor “in the interests of justice.” Proposition 4 7 rendered all violations of section 496 that do not exceed $950 as strictly misdemeanors, eliminating prosecutorial discretion to charge those offenses as felonies.
  • Petty Theft with a Prior. For most defendants, Proposition 47 eliminated the offense of petty theft with a prior under Penal Code section 666 by narrowing the category of persons subject to punishment under that section to only include persons required to register under the Sex Offender Registration Act, persons with prior violent or serious felony convictions under section 667.5(e)(2)(C)(iv), and persons convicted of Penal Code section 368(d) or (e) [specified theft crimes involving elder or dependent adults].


Drug Possession Offenses
Proposition 47 also reclassified drug possession offenses under Health and Safety Code sections 11350, 11357(a) [concentrated cannabis], and 11377 as strictly misdemeanors punishable by up to one year in county jail. As with the theft offenses, these new misdemeanor provisions do not apply to persons with one or more prior convictions for offenses specified under Penal Code section 667(e)(2)(C)(iv) or for a sex offense that requires registration under Penal Code section 290(c).

Resentencing

Eligibility
Proposition 47 added Penal Code section 1170.18 to authorize persons currently serving sentences for felony convictions that are now misdemeanors under the proposition to petition courts for recalls of sentences and to request resentencing under the new laws (Pen. Code § 1170.18(a).), except that persons with one or more prior convictions for offenses listed under section 667(e)(2)(C)(iv) or for a sex offense that requires registration under section 290(c) are not eligible for resentencing. (Pen. Code, § 1170. l 8(i).)

Petitions
Petitions for resentencing must be filed within three years after the effective date of the new laws “or at a later date upon a showing of good cause.” (Pen. Code § 1170.18(j).) Petitions must be filed with the trial court that entered the original judgment unless that judge is unavailable, in which case the presiding judge must designate another judge to rule on the petition. (Pen. Code, § 1170.18(a), (1).)

Resentencing Considerations
If the court determines that the petitioner is eligible for resentencing, the court must recall the sentence and resentence the petitioner under the new misdemeanor provisions “unless the court, in its discretion, determines that resentencing the petitioner would pose an unreasonable risk of danger to public safety.” (Pen. Code, § 1170. l8(b).)

The phrase “unreasonable risk of danger to public safety” is defined narrowly as an unreasonable risk that the petitioner will commit a new violent felony within the meaning of section 667(e)(2)(C)(iv). (Pen. Code, § 1l70.18(c).)

Persons who are resentenced must be given credit for time served and are subject to a period of parole for one year under section 3000.08 “unless the court, in its discretion, as part of its resentencing order, releases the person from parole.” (Pen. Code, § 1170.18(d).)

Resentencing may not result in the imposition of a term that is longer than the original sentence. (Pen. Code, § 1170.18(e).) A resentencing hearing is considered a “post-conviction release proceeding” under Article I, Section 28(b)(7) of the California Constitution (Marsy's Law).

Reclassifying Convictions

Proposition 4 7 also authorizes persons who have completed their sentences for felony offenses that would have qualified as misdemeanors under the new laws to apply for a reduction of their felony conviction to a misdemeanor. (Pen. Code, § 1l70. l8(f).) Persons with one or more prior convictions for offenses listed under section 667(e)(2)(C)(iv) or for a sex offense that requires registration under section 290(c) are not eligible for reclassification. (Pen. Code, § 1170.18(i).)

As with the resentencing provisions explained above, applications for reclassification must be made with the trial court that entered the original judgment unless that judge is unavailable, in which case the presiding judge must designate another judge to rule on the petition. (Pen. Code § 1170.18(f), (1).) All applications must be filed within three years of the effective date of the new laws “or at a later date upon a showing of good cause.” (Pen. Code, § 1170.l8(j).)

If the court determines that the person is eligible for reduction, the court must designate the felony offense as a misdemeanor. (Pen. Code, § 1170.l8(g).) Unlike the resentencing provisions under section 1170.18(a), reductions to misdemeanors do not hinge on considerations of an “unreasonable risk of danger to public safety.”

Unless requested by the applicant, no hearing is necessary to grant or deny an application. (Pen. Code, § 1170.18(f).)

Proposition 47 Filings: November 2014 – December 2015 (Updated March 2016)

Proposition 47 FAQs (Updated November 2015)

Memorandum on Proposition 47 (May 2016)

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