PROPOSITION 47 PASSED! MANY FELONY THEFT AND DRUG CHARGES CAN BE REDUCED TO MISDEMEANOR OFFENSES: MANY OF THOSE SERVING PRISON SENTENCES CAN GET RELEASED EARLY:
On November 5, 2014, Los Angeles citizens voted to decrease the penalties for certain felonies such as most felony theft offenses where the loss is under $950 (including, fraud, receiving stolen property and commercial burglary), and most drug possession cases. Under the prior law, many simple possession charges involving small amounts of heroin, cocaine and some prescription drugs were "straight" felonies and such charges were not reducable to misdemeanors. Many people were being sentenced to prison for relatively minor "petty" offenses because they were "straight" felonies, which allowed prosecutors and judges to impose longer sentences. Having a felony on one’s record makes it harder to be a productive member of society because getting a job is very difficult when you have a felony record.
PROP 47 AND PASADENA CRIMINAL CASES
After the passage of PROP 47, personal possession of most drugs including heroin and cocaine are now mandatory misdemeanors. In Los Angeles and Pasadena, the local District Attorneys almost always filed felony drug charges on any person found to be in possession of even a tiny quantity of certain drugs such as heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine. When ever the DA could file criminal charges for possession for sale in Pasadena, despite the lack of evidence for sales, they would eagerly do so. However, now, thanks to Proposition 47, the Los Angeles county District Attorneys are legally barred from filing felonies in the most commonly charged simple possession cases. Possession for personal use of heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine, and some other illegal substances, can no longer be filed as felonies by the District Attorney. The maximum sentence a person can receive on any misdemeanor is 365 days (that will soon change to 364 days!). So, instead of facing up to 3 or more years in prison on a felony charge, the Judge and the District Attorney will not be able to request more than 365 days in county jail if the criminal complaint charges one of the crimes listed under Proposition 47.
The money saved by fewer people serving prison time will go towards drug treatment programs, schools, mental health treatment and other causes.
However, anyone with a prior convictions for rape, murder, child molestation or those convicted of most sex offenses requiring sex registration, will not benefit from Proposition 47 because their charges will not become misdemeanors under the new initiative. Interestingly, MOST conviction for prior strikes (serious or violent felonies) will NOT disqualify an inmate from Prop 47 benefits. For example, if you are serving a 32 month prison sentence because you were convicted of a commercial burglary for stealing merchandise valued at less than $950, but 5 years ago you were convicted of a residential burglary or a criminal threats felony, you will be able to petition to have your commercial burglary reduced to a misdemeanor and for release from prison. A judge MUST reduce the charge and release you from prison if you have served more than a misdemeanor sentence if you qualify under Proposition 47, UNLESS the Judge finds you would pose an unreasonable risk of harm to the public.
A very important part of Prop 47 is it will give defense attorneys the power to have their clients who were previously convicted of a felony that is now a misdemeanor, a chance to have their conviction reduced to a misdemeanor by petitioning the court. Some criminal Defendants serving time on a charge that was a felony at the time of sentencing will be able to petition the Court for early release since the reduction of a felony charge to a misdemeanor can have a big impact on an inmate’s sentence.
As of now it appears that the law is fully retroactive so if you served a prison sentence in the past for a qualifying felony which can now be reduced to a misdemeanor, you should be able to expunge your record even though you served a prison sentence (which previously would be a complete bar to getting an expungement).
CONTACT PASADENA CRIMINAL LAWYER ANN GOTTESMAN TO DISCUSS HOW PROP 47 MAY EFFECT YOUR CASE.
If you want to discuss how this new law may affect you or a loved one, please call Pasadena Criminal Defense Attorney Ann Gottesman for a FREE consultation.