A measure to reclassify low-level, non-violent crimes in California won by a substantial margin in the November mid-term elections. Voters made it possible for thousands of non-violent offenders to be resentenced and possibly released from the state’s overcrowded prison system. While the proposition is helpful to some who’ve been already been convicted of a crime, if you’re accused of a crime, facing a charge, or if you expect to be charged with a crime in southern California, speak immediately with an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer.

Under Proposition 47, low-level property and drug felonies such as shoplifting, theft, and check fraud under $950, as well as personal illicit drug use, will be reclassified as misdemeanors. Because the law will be applied retroactively, as many as 10,000 inmates convicted of these offenses may now be eligible for early release. California will save an estimated $150 million that will be used now to finance truancy and dropout prevention, victim services, mental health and drug abuse treatment, and other alternatives to incarceration.

Under Proposition 47, you may also be able to have your DNA expunged from the California Department of Justice (DOJ) DNA database. Since 2004, if you’re charged with a felony in California, you’ve had a DNA sample taken with a cotton swab from the inside of your cheek. The sample was filed and stored in the California DOJ database. With the passage of Proposition 47, you may be able to have your DNA sample destroyed and expunged from the database. How is it done? With the help of a lawyer. Let an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer explain the DNA expungement process and guide you through it.

DNA expungement won’t be that difficult, but you may still have to live with other consequences that resulted because of a felony conviction. For example, if you have lost your right to own a firearm in California because of a felony conviction, Proposition 47 does not immediately restore your firearm possession rights. To accomplish that, your felony must first be reduced to a misdemeanor under California Penal Code 17b rather than Proposition 47. A Los Angeles criminal defense attorney can thoroughly look at your case and determine if you are eligible for the reduction of a felony to a misdemeanor under the terms of California Penal Code 17b. If you have no other felony convictions and no misdemeanor convictions on your record that prohibit you from owning a firearm, the right can sometimes be restored under California law. However, this is never a guarantee, so consult with a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney to discuss your legal options.

Proposition 47 is one of several recent attempts to reform the state’s prison system, which a 2011 Supreme Court decision said was one of the most crowded and costly in the entire country. However, the proposition will impact only about 30 percent of California’s prison inmates, so there is still a lot of work that needs to be done. As of 2013, according to the Department of Corrections, 70 percent of the California prison population was serving a sentence for a violent offense. Nevertheless, the passage of Proposition 47 is good news and a step in the right direction for anyone convicted of a non-violent crime or facing a charge for one.

Proposition 47 was approved by more than 58 percent of California’s voters, and it will make a big difference in the lives of thousands in our state. It’s good news for those of us who need some of our rights restored. To learn more about reducing felonies to misdemeanors, DNA expungement, or regaining your right to own a firearm, call an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer as quickly as possible.

Why You Still Need A Lawyer

The passage of Proposition 47 in November is evidence that most Californians no longer believe stiff penalties are an effective answer to reducing crime in this state. The new measure rewrites penalties for crimes such as grand theft, shoplifting, receiving stolen property, writing bad checks, check forgery, and drug possession, to name a few. Such crimes, if they involve property that has been valued at $950 or less, will only be charged as misdemeanors, meaning the offender will not end up in state prison, but will still face consequences for the crime they committed. But even as misdemeanors, convictions for these crimes can still mean time in county jail, fines, and other serious penalties. If you are charged with any crime in or near the Los Angeles area, get help and contact an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney immediately.

Proposition 47 also allows offenders who have served their time or who currently are in prison to petition a court to have their sentences or criminal records adjusted to remove their felony convictions. That portion of the initiative could affect as many as 10,000 inmates in prison. It does not apply to defendants with prior convictions for violent crimes such as murder, rape, or child molestation. Prosecutors now must go through their pending cases to see which ones need to be reclassified as misdemeanors and look at old cases that may be returned to court. Specifically, Proposition 47 reduces the following crimes to misdemeanors:

  • Grand theft of $950 or less
  • Shoplifting of property worth $950 or less
  • Receiving stolen property of $950 or less
  • Writing a bad check for $950 or less (unless the offender has three previous forgery-related convictions, giving the court discretion whether the case should be a misdemeanor or felony)
  • Forging a check for $950 or less (unless the suspect also commits identity theft in connection with the forgery, which would allow the case to be charged either as a misdemeanor or felony)
  • Drug possession for personal use (not including marijuana possession for personal use, which can be charged as an infraction or misdemeanor)

You no longer face the possibility of years in state prison for these crimes, but don’t be fooled. It’s still imperative to obtain legal help and representation. If you are charged with any of these crimes in southern California, get the legal help you need and contact an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney promptly.

By: Douglas Miranda

Los Angeles criminal attorney Douglas Miranda graduated with honors from California State University, Los Angeles, and earned his J.D. from Western State College of Law in Fullerton. Since his admission to practice law in California, he has received special training and certification in forensic science, jury selection, and sex crime defense. Mr. Miranda also helps clients terminate their probations early and expunge their criminal records.