Proposition 47, also known as “The Safe Neighborhood and Schools Act,” is a law that reduces certain low-level, non-violent felonies to misdemeanors on criminal records. Proposition 47 allows for the change from felony to misdemeanor for these crimes: (1) simple drug possession, (2) petty theft with value of $950 or less, (3) shoplifting with value of $950 or less, (4) forging or writing a bad beck with value of $950 or less, and (5) receipt of stolen property with value of $950 or less.
Persons who are eligible under Proposition 47 are those who are already serving a felony conviction for the five felonies mentioned. Persons who have completed a sentence for the specified offenses may also file an application before the trial court who sentenced them to have their felony conviction reduced to a misdemeanor.
Not all offenders can petition the court under Proposition 47. Offenders who have been previously convicted of sex offenses, murder or attempted murder, assault with a machine gun on an officer, and other violent crime punishable by a life sentence or death are not eligible under the law. In addition, an inmate who is required to register as a sex offender under the California Sex Offender Registration Act is not eligible under the law.
Because Proposition 47 reduces the certain offenses to misdemeanor, the maximum penalty for these crimes will generally be up to one year in county jail, and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
A Smarter Sentencing Act (S. 502/H.R. 920) is before the Senate and the House. The bill, which is similar to Proposition 47, aims to reduce minimum sentencing for controlled substance offenses. The most notable difference between the federal bill and Proposition 47 are the eligible offenses. The federal bill makes eligible only non-violent controlled substances offenses, while Proposition 47 makes eligible non-violent offenses, including controlled substances offenses.
Grand theft auto, grand theft firearms, shoplifting, Penal Code 496 receiving stolen property, California forgery of a check, Penal Code 476a violation, Health & Safety Code 11350 possession of a controlled substance, Health & Safety Code 11357 possession of concentrated cannabis; and Health & Safety Code 11377 possession of methamphetamine
Persons eligible under Proposition 47 have until November 4, 2017, or three years after November 4, 2014 effective date of the initiative, to file a petition or application to the court that sentenced. Petitions for resentencing and applications for reclassifications can also be filed later than November 4, 2017, upon a showing of "good cause."
There is no need for a hearing when a petition or application for re-sentencing under Proposition 47 is filed. A judge, however, may deny an inmate's request for resentencing if the judge determines that the inmate poses an unreasonable risk of danger to public safety. In the case of sex offenders, if a person who is convicted of any of the offenses under Proposition 47 was required by a judge's order to register as a sex offender is still eligible for sentencing under Proposition 47. The offender is only ineligible for Proposition 47 sentencing if the person is convicted of one of the offenses specifically listed in the Sex Offender Registration Act or Penal Code section 290(c).
In Alejandro N. v. Superior Court of San Diego County, the Fourth District Court of Appeals rejected the San Diego District Attorney's Office's arguments that it was the voters' intent to exclude juvenile offenders from the benefits of Proposition 47 and that the applies equally to juvenile offenders. The prosecutor lost a petition for the California Supreme Court to review and overturn the Court of Appeal’s decision.
In Tre W. v. Superior Court of Contra Costa County, the First District Court of Appeal held that in the sentence reduction provisions enacted by voters in Proposition 47 expressly permitted the reduction of sentences negotiated by plea agreement and that the District Attorney was not denied any contractual or constitutional rights by their application.