What’s the Deal With California’s Prop 47?

It passed with nearly sixty percent of the vote, but what does it actually do?

Proposition 47 reclassified a series of petty-theft and drug-possession charges in the Penal Code—reducing them from wobblers, which can be charged as felonies or misdemeanors, to straight misdemeanors—and it authorized the recall and resentencing of past felony convictions based on that.

But Prop 47 doesn’t apply at all if you have a prior conviction for anything that requires sex-offender registration under Penal Code § 290 or any of the serious or violent felonies enumerated in Penal Code § 667(e)(2)(C)(iv).

If you don’t have a prior disqualifying conviction, then for each of the following offenses, Prop 47 reclassifies your conviction from a felony to a misdemeanor:

  • Shoplifting. It’s a straight misdemeanor that must be charged that way if the value of the property in question does not exceed $950. See Pen. Code § 459.5.
  • Forgery. It’s a straight misdemeanor if it relates to checks, notes, bonds, bank bills, cashier’s checks, traveler’s checks, or money orders whose value does not exceed $950. Id. § 473. But Prop 47 doesn’t apply to you, here, if you were also convicted of identity theft under Penal Code § 530.5.
  • Passing bad checks. Pen. Code § 476a. It’s a straight misdemeanor for amounts of $950 or less, unless you have three or more priors for this offense or any fraud, forgery, or counterfeiting offense under Penal Code §§ 470, 475, or 476.
  • Any theft where the value of the property taken does not exceed $950. Id. § 490.2.
  • Receiving stolen property where the value does not exceed $950. Id. § 496.
  • Petty theft with prior petty-theft convictions. See id. § 666.
  • Drug possession. See Health & Safety Code §§ 11350, 11377, & 11357.

If you’ve got a case pending right now and you think Prop 47 applies, talk to your lawyer, who may be able to bring a simple oral motion in court on your next court date.

Or, if you have a past conviction and you think it applies, you can apply today to reduce it to a misdemeanor. There’s no hearing unless you ask for one, and if your conviction was reclassified by Prop 47, the court will reduce your case. If this applies to you, you must file your application by November 4, 2017, unless you can show good cause for the delay. (Update: In 2016, the Legislature extended this deadline to November 4, 2022.)

If you’re currently serving a sentence on a conviction and you think Prop 47 applies, then you’ll need to file a petition for recall and resentencing as a misdemeanor in accordance with your amended Code section. See Pen. Code § 1170.18. If your conviction was reclassified, it will be resentenced as a misdemeanor and you’ll get credit for time served, unless the court finds that resentencing you would pose an unreasonable risk that you’ll commit one of the serious or violent felonies of Penal Code § 667(e)(2)(C)(iv). In making that decision, the court may consider any evidence it determines to be relevant, including your criminal history and record of discipline or rehabilitation while incarcerated. Even if you are resentenced, you are subject to one year of parole upon your release unless the court, as part of its resentencing order, releases you from it.

A felony conviction that is reduced under Prop 47 is considered a misdemeanor for all purposes other than for purposes of firearms restrictions. So you can still be charged and convicted as a felon in possession of a firearm.

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