A Second Chance
It is no secret California's prisons have struggled with overcrowding. Reform has helped reduce overcrowding, but the prison system is still over capacity. One of the contributing forces behind the reduction in the prison population comes from proposition 47, recently passed in 2014. Proposition 47, also called prop 47, effectively reclassifies certain non-violent, non-serious felonies to misdemeanors. Felonies are punishable by a prison sentence or death. Misdemeanors are crimes that are punishable by up to one year in a county jail. Once a felony is reduced to a misdemeanor under prop 47, the inmate may be eligible to be released. The purpose of prop 47 is to reserve the limited resources of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for serious offenders who pose a threat to public safety. All other offenders do not necessarily need to be in prison and may benefit more from release into the community than years in prison.
How It Works
Prop 47 only reclassifies certain crimes. Non-violent property and drug felonies are eligible for reclassification while more serious or violent felonies are not. The offenses prop 47 applies to include:
- Grand theft
- Receiving stolen property
- Writing a bad check
- Personal drug use
For shoplifting, grand theft, receiving stolen property, forgery, and writing a bad check, the value of the goods or the fraud value must not exceed $950. Under prop 47, inmates serving sentences for these crimes may be released early. This won't happen automatically. Those eligible for relief under prop 47 must petition the court for resentencing. They must do so before November 4, 2017, to be eligible. The court must resentence those eligible unless the offender is deemed a threat to public safety.
Under prop 47, inmates can be released early. And, if they're voting rights were revoked because of serving a prison sentence for a felony, they may have their voting rights restored if their crime is reclassified as a misdemeanor and they are released. Once a defendant is done serving a sentence and is no longer under community supervision, he or she may vote again. Those who have already served their sentence can also benefit from prop 47. These people can petition for resentencing to have their criminal record altered. Changing a felony to a misdemeanor on a criminal record can help someone find a job, get public assistance, or find housing. It may also make them eligible for certain professional positions or licensures again. Beyond the benefits to the offender, prop 47 is meant to save the state money and improve conditions at overcrowded prison facilities.
When Prop 47 Won't Help
Prop 47 has helped many inmates in California's prison system regain their freedom by reclassifying their non-violent and non-serious felonies to misdemeanors. There are various restrictions and exceptions to these reductions, and not all inmates will be eligible for release under prop 47. For example, many crimes cannot be reclassified. Only the non-violent, non-serious crimes above can make you eligible for benefits under prop 47. Also, not all offenders will be eligible even if their crime is. An offender is not eligible for relief under prop 47 if he or she has a history of past sexual offenses, including those who must register as a sex offender, murder, attempted murder, or solicitation to commit murder, assault with a machine gun on an officer, or those convicted of any crime carrying the death sentence or life.
If you think you are eligible for relief under California's prop 47, consult with an experienced California criminal defense attorney. An attorney can evaluate your case and advise you on your options. If you are eligible for relief under prop 47, an attorney can help you navigate the process of petitioning for that relief. Prop 47 has changed a lot of people's lives in the California prison system, and it could help you, too. Make sure you consult with an attorney prior to petitioning, however, to ensure you meet all the requirements and have the best chance at success.
If you have questions about relief under prop 47, call experienced Visalia area criminal defense attorney Christopher Martens today for expert counsel. At The Law Offices of Christopher Martens, we can evaluate your case and help you get relief under prop 47 if it is applicable to your case. Attorney Martens has practiced criminal defense for over ten years and knows how to defend your rights. Contact our Visalia or Hanford offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] to discuss a possible plan of action for your case.