It’s no secret that strict criminal laws and stiff minimum penalties for non-violent offenses have caused many good people to be harshly punished with felony convictions, years in prison, and probation. The weight of a felony conviction hangs heavy on anyone’s shoulders and seems to crush opportunities and hopes for the future. Individuals who were charged and convicted for minor drug possessions and small thefts are held back in life because of laws that were neither fair nor productive.
Californians sought to do something about this two years ago when they created and passed Proposition 47, which reduced a number of minor crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. The retroactive law allows for those already convicted of one of these felonies to be resentenced or have their criminal records revised. The law doesn’t let anyone off the hook, but it changes the punishment to more appropriately fit the crime.
What Is Proposition 47?
In November 2014, California voters passed Proposition 47, which allows for certain crimes to be reduced from felonies to misdemeanors. Relevant crimes under the law are:
- Possession of methamphetamine
- Possession of controlled substance
- Possession of concentrated cannabis
- Petty theft of property worth less than $950
- Grand theft of property worth less than $950
- Shoplifting of property worth less than $950
- Forging or writing a bad check worth less than $950
- Receipt of stolen property under $950
Under the new law, people currently charged with these crimes will only face misdemeanor charges and penalties. All future charges for these crimes will be misdemeanors.
What If I’ve Already Been Convicted?
For individuals currently serving jail or prison sentences for a felony that is now a misdemeanor, they can petition the court for resentencing. The court will approve the request unless it finds this would create an unreasonable risk to public safety. This can be life changing for individuals who have already served the one year penalty for a misdemeanor as they’ll be released and be able to return to their families years or months earlier than expected.
This law is retroactive, which means even if you completed your prison sentence for a pertinent felony, you can ask the court to reduce the crime on your criminal record from a felony to a misdemeanor. As many as 1 million Californians may be eligible for revised criminal records.
This change can make a major difference for people trying to move on with their lives after completing their sentences. A felony on a criminal record can lead to housing and job discrimination, as well as many other collateral issues. A misdemeanor is much more likely to be understood as a mistake or youthful indiscretion when applying for school, jobs, apartments, and loans.
Does Prop 47 Apply To Me?
Prop 47 didn’t automatically change anything for convicted offenders. Instead, offenders must determine if their crime is relevant under the new law and whether they are eligible to petition the court for a reduced sentence or revised criminal record.
An offender cannot petition the court if they were previously convicted of:
- Sexual battery
- Sexual abuse of a child
- Indecent exposure
- Vehicular or gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated
- Aggravated mayhem
- Human Trafficking
There are other crimes that are ineligible for applying for resentencing or a revised record. In general, they are sex crimes or offenses that can result in the death penalty or a life sentence.
How Do I Get Resentenced?
First and foremost, it’s in your better interest to call a Prop 47 attorney to advise you on the process of resentencing or changing your criminal record. You need to be sure your crime is eligible and that your criminal history doesn’t make you ineligible. Additionally, each county may have slightly different procedures.
In general, an inmate must file a petition for resentencing with the pertinent sentencing court. The court will review the offender’s criminal history, and if eligible, the court is required to resentence the inmate. The only exception is if the court believes a reduced sentence would create an unreasonable risk to public safety. To determine this, a judge uses their discretion and looks at the individual’s criminal record as well as any disciplinary actions incurred while in prison.
How Do I Change My Record?
An individual must fill out and file a request in the county where the sentencing took place. A copy of the form must go to the court clerk and the District Attorney’s office. Generally, there won’t be a court hearing to alter the record unless the question of eligibility arises.
Forms and filing them can be confusing. A San Diego Prop 47 attorney can help you fill out the form correctly and ensure it’s turned into the right people.
What’s The Deadline To File
Individuals don’t have forever to alter their sentencing or record under Prop 47. You have until November 4, 2017 to file a petition with the correct county court.
Contact A San Diego Prop 47 Attorney
Statutes, propositions, eligibility, petitions, and forms can all be hard to understand. Contact Jessica McElfresh at (858) 756-7107 to learn more about Prop 47 and how you can be resentenced or change your criminal record as soon as possible.