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The Impact of California’s Prop 47 on Criminal Sentencing and Defense

Law Offices of William W. Bruzzo

Proposition 47 was a referendum passed by California voters on November 4th, 2014. Prop 47 is also called the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act. Prop 47 re-categorized some types of nonviolent criminal offenses as misdemeanors instead of felonies. Prop 47 was passed to convert nonviolent offenses to misdemeanors and keep offenders who did not commit violent crimes out of jail.

For more information on Prop 47, the Newport Beach criminal defense attorney at the Law Offices of William W. Bruzzo provides additional information below.

What Did Prop 47 Do?

Prop 47 re-categorized some nonviolent offenses as less serious misdemeanors. All of these offenses were previously classified as felonies. Felonies carry at least one year of jail time when the defendant is convicted. The prison sentences for those convicted of misdemeanors are less severe. The following criminal charges were reduced to misdemeanors because of Proposition 47:

  • Personal use of many types of illegal drugs below a specific threshold of weight
  • Writing a bad check when the value of the check doesn’t exceed $950
  • Fraud when the value of the fraud does not exceed $950
  • Forgery when the value of the forged bond, bill, or check does not exceed $950
  • Receiving stolen property when the value of the property doesn’t exceed $950
  • Grand theft when the value of the stolen property doesn’t exceed $950
  • Shoplifting when the value of the property does not exceed $950

As soon as Prop 47 was enacted into law, defendants currently charged with eligible crimes could only face misdemeanor charges in penalties, not felonies. Additionally, the law requires prosecutors to ensure all future charges for these crimes are misdemeanors.

What If a Person Was Already Convicted When Prop 47 Passed?

Prop 47 applied retroactively. Individuals currently serving jail or prison sentences due to a felony conviction that became a misdemeanor under Prop 47 have the right to petition the court for resentencing. 

If the court finds that resentencing the crime as a misdemeanor wouldn’t create an unreasonable risk to public safety, an individual can have their sentence reduced. For example, suppose a defendant had already served a year after being convicted of an eligible crime. In that case, the defendant could be resentenced for a misdemeanor and would be done with their prison sentence. 

Exceptions Under Prop 47

There are some exceptions to the general rule. Are you wondering whether you can petition the court for resentencing? You’ll need to determine whether the crime you were convicted of is eligible for a reduced sentence or revised criminal record. If a defendant was convicted for any of the following offenses, he or she is barred from petitioning the court for resentencing under Prop 47:

  • Rape
  • Sexual battery
  • Sexual abuse of a child
  • Indecent exposure
  • Murder
  • Vehicular or gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated
  • Kidnapping
  • Torture
  • Aggravated mayhem
  • Arson
  • Human trafficking
  • Kidnapping
  • Tortue 

The Difference Between a Misdemeanor and a Felony Charge

For those eligible for resentencing under Prop 47, the benefits of this law are significant. Having a felony on your record is a much more serious impediment to your future. It can hurt your ability to travel abroad, find employment, and even find housing. You can more easily explain a misdemeanor conviction to a potential employer on your record. Misdemeanors don’t necessarily prohibit people from finding work. However, some employers refuse to consider job applicants with a felony criminal history.

Discuss Your Case with an Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney

Since Prop 47 became law, thousands of inmates in California have been able to experience early release from prison due to resentencing petitions. If you or someone you know has questions about resentencing under Prop 47, it’s crucial that you reach out to an attorney as soon as possible. Contact the Orange County criminal defense law firm of Bruzzo Law today to schedule a free initial case evaluation and learn more about how we can fight for you. 

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