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Proposition 47 

Re-sentencing Under California's Proposition 47

Prop 47 downgraded many theft and drug possession crimes from felonies to misdemeanors. With some exceptions, people with prior convictions for these crimes, no matter how old, are entitled to ask for re-sentencing as a misdemeanor.

In November 2014, California voters passed an initiative called the “Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act.” Labeled “Proposition 47” (Prop 47), this initiative reclassified many low level theft and drug possession offenses from felonies to misdemeanors for qualifying defendants. 

  • Defendants facing current charges, at any stage short of sentencing. The charges were immediately eligible to be downgraded from felonies to misdemeanors.

  • Convicted persons serving time or on probation for felony convictions. These people are eligible to petition the court for reclassification of their charges, which could mean immediate release from custody or a downgrade of their probationary status.

  • Convicted persons who have finished serving their time and who are no longer on probation or parole. These people are entitled to petition for reclassification of their felonies to misdemeanors.

Who Will Not Benefit From Prop 47?

  • sexually violent offenses and sex offenses against minors under the age of 14

  • murder, attempted murder, and solicitation to commit murder

  • assault with a machine gun on a police officer or firefighter

  • possession of a weapon of mass destruction

  • any offense punishable in California by life in prison or death, or

  • any person who is required to register as a sex offender under Penal Code section 290(c).

Important information

People who are still serving their sentences, and who are “at risk of committing” one of the offenses listed above, may also be excluded from Prop 47's benefits, even if they have no prior convictions for the crimes listed above. To exclude a defendant in this way, the District Attorney will file an opposition in response to a defendant's petition for Prop 47 relief, and will request what is called a “Dangerousness Hearing.” At that hearing, the District Attorney will have to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that a defendant is at risk of committing one of the above offenses in the future. Note how difficult this should prove to be: The prosecutor must prove that the defendant is at risk of committing a far more serious offense than he has ever committed, because having one of these crimes on one's record disqualifies a person from even asking for Prop 47 resentencing.

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