California proposition lowers penalties for drug and property crimes

As a result of a proposition that was passed in California, thousands may be eligible for resentencing and to have felonies erased from their records.

During the recent California election, a majority of voters supported Proposition 47 and voted "yes" on this piece of legislation. This measure allows those suspected of committing certain drug crimes and property crimes to only face misdemeanor charges instead of felony charges, states the California Secretary of State. However, these lower penalties do not apply to those who were previously convicted for serious or violent crimes or those who are registered sex offenders.

How will the excess funding be used?

According to CBS News, since the 1980s, the state of California has constructed and filled 22 new prisons. This bill was designed to not only reduce the prison population, but to also lower crime in the state. As a result, California is expected to save anywhere from $750 million to $1.25 billion over a five-year period. According to the California Secretary of State, savings will be used to provide victim, drug abuse treatment and mental health services, support school dropout and truancy programs and fund other programs designed to help people stay out of prison and jail.

Thousands may be eligible for resentencing

The approval of this proposition may allow tens of thousands of people in the state convicted of drug-related crimes, like drug possession, petty theft and writing bad checks, and other crimes, to be eligible for resentencing and to have felonies expunged from their records. According to the LA Times, because this proposition was passed:

  • Almost 5,000 people in state prison may be eligible for resentencing.
  • Tens of thousands of people in county jails and on probation may be able to be resentenced.
  • Those who finished their sentences years ago could have their felonies erased from their records.

For example, in San Diego County, 423,000 felony convictions made in the state since 1990 could become misdemeanors as a result of this new law. Additionally, an estimated 18,000 people who were convicted of felonies over the past three years in this county may be eligible for resentencing.

Many may benefit from having their felonies erased

Many are prompted to take advantage of this new law because of the positive effect eliminating a felony from their record can have. For example, a prior felony can make it difficult to obtain government student loans, receive public housing, find a job or receive licensing for certain professions, like hairstyling and nursing.

Although Proposition 47 makes several crimes committed in California misdemeanors instead of felonies, being charged for committing a criminal offense can be intimidating and confusing. If you are facing charges for drug possession or another drug-related offense, speak with an attorney to find out what your legal rights are.

Keywords: felony, drug, arrest, charge