In 2014, Californians voted on Proposition 47, and it was approved. Proposition 47 changes certain classifications of offenses from felonies to misdemeanors. There are several included offenses in the ruling, and they relate to nonviolent crimes such as property or drug offenses. However, those who have previous sexual assault, rape or various firearm-related convictions may not qualify for a reduced charge. The proposition was passed to allow more state funding to be allocated to education instead of incarceration and to help combat the issue of overcrowding in county jails and state prisons in California. There are several important issues to understand about Proposition 47.
The list includes non-serious illegal drug possession. Also, it includes the following as long as the total associated with the offense is not in excess of $950 for any incident:
- Receiving stolen property
- Grand theft
- Writing a bad check
Currently Incarcerated Individuals
The good news for people who are currently serving jail or prison sentences for any crimes listed in the previous section is that their sentences are eligible for reevaluation. For example, someone who is serving a long sentence for felony fraud may be able to go before a judge and have the conviction reduced to a misdemeanor. A lighter charge comes with a shorter sentence or no jail time in some cases. Some individuals may be released immediately. However, this is not true for all cases. In some instances, there are other crimes involved. Also, the criminal history of the individual may play a role in determining a reduction. While a few specific serious crimes are considered grounds for ineligibility for a reduction, some other combinations of person-to-person crimes may hinder a reduction as well. Each case is unique.
What To Do After An Arrest
Anyone who has been arrested for one of the offenses in the list must take action to avoid being charged with a felony. Prosecutors often try to reach for the maximum charge, and not all public defenders try their hardest to have those charges reduced. A private defense attorney has the time and motivation to get the charges reduced when the individual is eligible for a reduction under Proposition 47. Private attorneys also have the time to comb over the details of the arrest to see if police officers made any errors or displayed misconduct that could weaken the prosecutor’s case.
Why A Private Defense Attorney Is Essential
In addition to providing the strongest possible defense, a private attorney can help many people avoid jail time. Qualifying for a reduction under Proposition 47 is helpful in avoiding jail. However, private attorneys are also good at negotiating deals when a conviction is inevitable. For first-time offenders of some crimes that are not listed above, attorneys may be able to negotiate a deal that does not include a jail sentence. Probation, community service, diversion programs and fines are sentencing options that they work hard to attain through a reduced charge.
Having a misdemeanor instead of a felony on a criminal record is much better for several reasons. It is easier to find employment with a misdemeanor than with a felony. Many landlords will not allow tenants with a felony to rent from them but will overlook nonviolent misdemeanors. Also, many professional degree programs will not allow people with certain types of felonies to enroll. Felonies affect voting rights, adoption eligibility, professional certification eligibility and many other issues. When a conviction is likely either through trial or acceptance of a plea deal, hiring a private attorney is a good way for a person to protect his or her own future.
Some people make the mistake of trusting a free public defender who has a heavy caseload, and such individuals often accept a felony conviction to avoid jail. Unfortunately, they do not realize at the time how a felony conviction will negatively affect them in the future. The good news is that a private Los Angeles defense attorney offers a free consultation to give an individual a better idea of what types of outcomes are possible.