California Proposition 47 Gives Felons New Hope

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California Proposition 47 is giving felons a chance to receive new charges from the state. In essence, a reduction from a felony to a misdemeanor offense.

California Proposition 47

First enacted November 4, 2014, the law passed by voters reclassifies several theft and drug crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. However, the reclassification is not automatic, and a petition has to be filed before the November 2017 deadline. If you or someone you know has a minor felony criminal charge, then it is important to note this proposition. If the charge is one of the specific violations below, you have three (3) years to take advantage of the opportunity to reduce the charges.

In California, a felony conviction can affect the rest of your life. It can have an impact on your future employment, education opportunities, and even your ability to join the military. However, thanks to California Proposition 47, some low-level felons can have their convictions reduced to misdemeanors. Once reduced, then former felons will be able to answer “no” to any questions about a felony conviction on job applications.

Reclassification will apply both to current inmates serving their felony sentence, and because it is retroactive, to people who have already served their time as well. As a result, thousands of state prison and county jail inmates have been released from prison after a reduction of their minor drug and theft crimes.

Eligible charges for reduction under California Proposition 47 include the following theft and drug-possession crimes.

Theft Crimes

  • Property theft where the value of the property is $950 or less [Cal PC § 490.2 and § 459.5]
  • Receiving stolen property if the value is $950 or less [Cal PC § 496(a)]
  • Forgery of a check, money order for $950 or less [Cal PC § 473(b)]
  • Passing bad checks for $950 or less [Cal PC § 476a(b)]
  • Petty theft with a prior, with some exceptions [Cal PC § 666]

Drug-Possession Crimes

  • Possession of:
    • Some controlled substances [Cal HSC § 11350]
    • Concentrated cannabis [Cal HSC § 11357(a)]
    • Methamphetamine [Cal HSC § 11377]

There are a few exceptions to the rule. When the individual has disqualifying priors such as prior convictions for serious or violent offenses, as well as convictions which require the individual to register as a sex offender.


Eligible individuals may petition the superior court where they were sentenced to have their felony conviction reclassified as a misdemeanor. However, the exact process may depend on your county. Additionally, most counties even provide a template or standard form to submit your petition, including Riverside; Los Angeles; San Diego; San Bernardino; Sacramento and Orange County.

A California criminal defense attorney may be able to assist you with filing the petition. For those still in prison for the reclassified crime, the court has discretion based on a risk of danger for the public. However, for those already released, the court does not have discretion to deny relief, and eligible individuals must be granted misdemeanor reclassification.

Reclassification from a felony to a misdemeanor may also have a large impact on immigrants facing possible deportation. With this in mind, a clear record for an immigrant allows some eligibility for relief under DACA or DAPA. If so, they will no longer present as convicted of a “crime of moral turpitude.” Under federal law, misdemeanor sentences are less than a year. This could bring relief for thousands of California’s immigrants.

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John Devendorf
John Devendorf
John Devendorf is a California barred attorney and graduate of Seton Hall University School of Law. He writes on a range of legal topics including criminal law, immigration, and legal marketing. While he is not a member of The Kavinoky Law Firm, we share his legal insights on topics important to our clients.