Prop 47 requires misdemeanor sentencing instead of felony for the following crimes:
§ Shoplifting, where the value of property stolen does not exceed $950
§ Grand theft, where the value of the stolen property does not exceed $950
§ Receiving stolen property, where the value of the property does not exceed $950
§ Forgery, where the value of forged check, bond or bill does not exceed $950
§ Fraud, where the value of the fraudulent check, draft or order does not exceed $950
§ Writing a bad check, where the value of the check does not exceed $950
§ Personal use of most illegal drugs
Early on the morning of Nov. 6, Turlock Police officers on patrol found 24-year-old David Yakow allegedly in illegal possession of oxycodone. It turns out it was Yakow’s lucky day.
Had Yakow been caught with the narcotic prior to the election on Nov. 4, he likely would have been booked into the Stanislaus County Jail on a felony drug charge, but now with the passage of Prop 47, the same offense is a misdemeanor and releasable with a citation to appear in court.
“Prop 47 is a game changer for law enforcement in our Valley,” said Turlock Police Chief Rob Jackson. “There are people out on the streets now that shouldn’t be.”
Prop 47, the Reduced Penalties for Some Crimes Initiative that voters approved reduces the classification of some “nonserious and nonviolent crimes” from felonies to misdemeanors. Prop 47 was approved by 58.46 percent of the voters in California.
In particular, most drug offenses, petty thefts, forgeries, and grand thefts will no longer be considered felonies and will be charged as misdemeanors. The exception would be if the defendant has prior convictions for murder, rape, certain sex offenses or certain gun crimes.
The reclassification of felonies to misdemeanors also includes being caught with a stolen firearm, if the gun has a value below $950.
“The gun aspect is particularly worrisome because I’ve never had someone steal a gun to add to their collection — it’s for a crime,” Jackson said.
The initiative allows for re-sentencing for anyone currently serving a prison sentence for any of the offenses that the initiative reduces to misdemeanors. About 10,000 inmates will be eligible for resentencing, according to Lenore Anderson of Californians for Safety and Justice. Prior to any re-sentencing there would be a review of criminal history and a risk assessment, as mandated by the initiative.
The implementation of Prop 47 began immediately with sheriffs across the state releasing inmates whose charges and convictions were reclassified to misdemeanors.
“Prop 47 strips accountability and consequences out of the criminal justice system and is a disservice to victims of crime,” said Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson. “There has to be some consequences or we cannot affect any kind of real change.”
In the month since the initiative took effect, Stanislaus County has released 218 inmates, including three that have had a felony third strike conviction dropped to a misdemeanor conviction, Christianson said.
An additional 37 inmates are waiting for release pending case reviews.
Advocates for the initiative said it will have a dramatic impact on the state’s prison overpopulation problem, but Christianson said the county jail has yet to see any reductions.
“I don’t have 218 beds sitting open,” Christianson said. “We are still at max capacity.”
The passage could have a major impact on the drug courts. Previously, defendants charged with felony drug possession could have their charges set aside if they completed substance abuse treatment programs, but now with no threat of jail time there is little motivation for offenders to participate.
“There is less accountability for crimes and no incentives for people to change their behaviors,” Jackson said.
The initiative has to establish a Safe Neighborhood and Schools Fund, which will be funded by the money accrued by the state in criminal justice system savings and allocated to mental health and drug treatment programs, schools, and crime victims. Estimates range from $150 million to $250 million per year will be dispersed to the Department of Education (25 percent), Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board (10 percent), and the Board of State and Community Correction (65 percent).