On November 4th, 2014, Californians approved the ballot initiative known as Proposition 47, which reduces certain non-violent drug and property crimes from felony to misdemeanor status, and it is now state law. More specifically, Prop 47 does all of the following:
- Creates mandatory reduction of “non-serious, non-violent” crimes to misdemeanors unless the defendant has previous convictions on his record for such things as homicide, rape, sexual assault, or gun-related crimes. Felonies affected by the reduction include various theft crimes, if not more than $950 was stolen, and possession/personal use of most types of illegal drugs.
- Permits re-sentencing from a felony to a misdemeanor count, after a “thorough review” of about 10,000 inmates who are already serving time for the class of crimes the proposition affects. It also allows a change of record for those who have already served their time, which could affect as many as one million Californians.
- Establishes a Safe Neighborhoods & Schools Fund, which will receive the cost-savings caused by the implementation of the initiative. Those costs are estimated to be from $150 to $250 million a year, and the money will be disbursed as follows: 65% to the Board of State and Community Correction, 25% to the Department of Education, and 10% to the Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board.
Effects & Controversy
Prop 47 precipitated an immediate fall in prison populations all over the state of California, particularly in Los Angeles, which has the state’s and the nation’s largest jail/prison system. By January of 2015, the inmate population in L.A. had already fallen by 1,300 from 18,600 to 17,300. That was only since November of 2014. Additionally, estimates are that between $100 and $200 million will be saved by the state of California during the 2016 to 2017 fiscal year.
Nonetheless, Prop 47 has been quite controversial. Kentucky Senator and Presidential candidate Rand Paul, for example, praises it for transforming minor drug felonies into misdemeanors because it opens up more room in the prisons for violent criminals, keeping them from getting out early. Bernard Parks, however, Chief of the LAPD, worries that Prop 47 is causing an increase in burglaries in L.A. since addicts usualy steal to support their habit. While disagreements will no doubt continue, there are at least some good effects of the law, and it is now a legal reality to be dealt with in California regardless of one’s personal opinion.
Relation to DUIs
As concerns DUI convictions, Prop 47 will have an indirect but important effect on drugged driving DUIs. This is because many who are arrested for drugged driving are also charged with drug possession. Usually it is only in small quantities and meant purely for personal use, clearly putting it under the “Prop 47 umbrella” for reduction to a misdemeanor. Those with past DUI-related drug possession convictions may also be able to get their records improved, which will help thousands of Los Angeles and California residents regain the rights like voting and owning a firearm as well as increase their chances of getting a good job.
However, if you are facing a DUI and a related drug charge, you will still need an experienced attorney fighting on your side. After all, the prosecution may attempt to charge a case of simple possession as trafficking or worse- but a skilled defense attorney in Los Angeles can counter such tactics. For reducing past convictions, contact an experienced lawyer who will know how to submit the proper forms to the proper county courthouse and the D.A.’s office and answer all of your questions.
If you have questions you would like to discuss, call DUI lawyer Jon Artz at 310-820-1315.