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Will Reducing Penalties for Non-violent Crimes Help California?

With the November election approaching, prosecutors and defense attorneys are turning their attention to a ballot measure that will reduce penalties for some non-violent, non-serious offenses. Although it is gaining traction with the public, prosecutors are split over Proposition 47.

According to an August field poll, the proposition has 57% support, which means it could be voted into law barring significant changes before November. However, that is not expected to change as opposition has failed to raise funds and has remained quiet.1 Here is what you need to know about Prop 47.

What Will Prop 47 Do?

Proposition 47 is appropriately being called the “Reduced Penalties for Some Crimes Initiative.” If passed, the proposition would reduce six non-serious, non-violent crimes from felonies and wobblers-which could be prosecuted as felonies or misdemeanors depending on the circumstances of each case-to misdemeanors.
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The crimes being reclassified include drug and theft offenses. Most notably, crimes involving the possession of illegal drugs for personal use would always be charged as misdemeanors, regardless of what type of drug it is and how much of the drug the defendant possessed. Additionally, writing bad checks, shoplifting, receiving stolen property and theft of property worth $950 or less would be reduced to misdemeanors.

If Prop 47 passes, persons who commit these crimes would face a maximum of one year in county jail rather than three years in jail and a felony on their criminal record. It would also apply to convicted offenders already serving time for these offenses, allowing these individuals to petition for resentencing. Offenders who have completed their sentences would be eligible to apply to have their convictions reduced to misdemeanors on their criminal record. Anyone who has a prior conviction for certain violent or registerable sex crimes would not be eligible to have their sentences reduced under the proposed law.

What Effect Would Prop 47 Have?

Proposition 47 would have a profound impact on California and the treatment of individuals convicted of certain crimes. The state would save hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Sentencing fewer convicted people to shorter sentences could reduce overcrowded jail populations by thousands, according to the California Budget Project. 2

The goal of the measure is to stop spending so much of the state’s money on sending inmates to jail and redirect the funds towards the treatment of low-level offenders. The money saved by the state would be used for substance abuse treatment and support for mentally ill offenders. In the long run, treating these individuals rather than sending them to jail or prison will help reduce the chances that they will re-offend once released from custody.

Why You Should Vote Yes on Prop 47

California punishes persons convicted of non-serious offenses too harshly and does not prepare them to be released from custody, which could lead them to re-offend and wind up back behind bars. It is time for the state to stop focusing on punishing these individuals and offer mental health and substance abuse treatment instead.

If the measure is passed in November, the state will save hundreds of millions of dollars and convicted individuals will finally get the treatment they need. That is all the reason necessary to vote yes on Prop 47.

What do you think about Prop 47? Will you be voting yes on the measure in November? Wallin & Klarich welcomes your opinion. Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.


1. [“Prosecutors split on soft-on-crime measure” Daily Journal. Sept. 18, 2014.]

2. [http://www.cbp.org/pdfs/2014/140909_Proposition_47_BB.pdf2]

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Wallin & Klarich was established in 1981. Over the past 32 years, our law firm has helped tens of thousands of families in their time of legal need. Regardless of whether our clients faced criminal or DUI charges, the loss of their driving privilege, or wanted to clean up their criminal record, we have been there to help them.