There’s continuing debate about whether California’s Proposition 47, which decriminalized certain felonies, is responsible for a rise in crimes. But what’s not up for debate is that Prop 47 has been expanded and challenged in unforeseen ways. The appellate courts have been putting their own stamp on the way the trial courts have applied Prop 47. Here’s a sampling of how the cases have been falling.
Questions about who may qualify are up for debate:
- Whether Prop 47’s definition of dangerousness changed Prop 36’s definition of dangerous to be the same (compare People v Valencia (review granted Feb. 18, 2015, S223825; superseded opinion at 232 CA4th 514)(Fifth District)(no) with People v Valdez (2016) ___ CA4th ___, 2016 WL 1719082 (Fourth District)(yes)); and
- Whether a dangerousness determination must be made before granting relief to a defendant currently on postrelease community supervision (PRCS) (People v Morales (review granted Aug. 26, 2015, S228030; superseded opinion at 238 CA4th 43)).
Attempts to stretch the list of qualifying crimes have met with varying levels of success:
- Forged checks under Pen C §473(b) for amounts less than $950 qualify (People v Hoffman (2015) 241 CA4th 1304 (Second District) (Court cannot aggregate amount of forged checks to disqualify);
- Unauthorized use or possession of an access card under Pen C §484e(d) may qualify (People v Cuen (review granted Jan. 30, 2016, S231107; superseded opinion at 241 CA4th 1227));
- Commercial burglary for the purpose of cashing a forged check of less than $950 may qualify (compare People v Gonzales (review granted Feb. 17, 2016, S231171; superseded opinion at 242 CA4th 35)(Fourth District) with People v Vargas (review granted Mar. 30, 2016, S232673; superseded opinion at 243 CA4th 1416)(Second District);
- Theft from an elder does not qualify (People v Bush (2016) 245 CA4th 992);
- Attempted burglary of a vehicle under Pen C §664/§459 does not qualify (People v Acosta (2015) 242 CA4th 521(Second District));
- Receiving a stolen vehicle under Pen C §496d may not qualify (People v Orozco (rehearing granted Feb. 8, 2016; former opinion at 244 CA4th 65)(Fourth District)); and
- Taking or driving of a vehicle valued at less than $950 may qualify depending on the appellate district (compare People v Ortiz (review granted Mar. 16, 2016; superseded opinion at 243 CA4th 854) (Sixth District) with People v Haywood (review granted Mar. 9, 2016; superseded opinion at 243 CA4th 515) (Third District).
Other issues about what happens after a conviction is reduced to a misdemeanor are still up in the air:
- Whether a defendant currently on postrelease community supervision (PRCS) whose Prop 47 petition has been granted must be subject to the 1-year parole term (People v Armogeda (review granted Dec. 9, 2015, S230374; superseded opinion at 240 CA4th 1039);
- Whether excess custody credits should be applied to the parole term and fines under Pen C §2900.5 (People v Armogeda (review granted Dec. 9, 2015, S230374; superseded opinion at 240 CA4th 1039);
- Whether the out-on-bail enhancement applies after one of the qualifying felonies has been reduced to a misdemeanor under Prop 47 (People v Eandi (review granted Nov. 18, 2015, S229305; superseded opinion at 239 CA4th 801));
- Whether a charge of felony failure to appear that attached to a felony reduced to a misdemeanor under Prop 47 must also be reduced (People v Perez (review granted Nov. 18, 2015, S229046; superseded opinion at 239 CA4th 24)); and
- Whether a defendant who applies for reduction to a misdemeanor is rejecting the terms of a previously agreed upon plea bargain, which allows the prosecutor to re-instate the original charges; specifically, whether that means rewinding back to the pre-plea bargain stage (compare People v Brown (2014) 244 CA4th 1170 (plea bargain does not get withdrawn; eligible for reduction) and People v Perry (2016) 244 CA4th 1251 (plea bargain does not get withdrawn; eligible for reduction) with Harris v Superior Court (review granted Feb. 24, 2016; superseded opinion at 242 CA4th 244) (plea bargain gets withdrawn and original charges get reinstated).
Hopefully these conflicts will be resolved soon by the California Supreme Court. But one thing is definitely clear: Attorneys practicing criminal law should keep an eye on how these cases will affect their clients.
For more on Prop 47, turn to the new update of the “crim law bible,” CEB’s California Criminal Law Procedure and Practice. Also check out CEB’s California Criminal Law Forms Manual for sample forms used to petition for a reduction to a misdemeanor and CEB’s California Criminal Sentencing Enhancements for discussion of Prop 47’s effect on sentencing.
Other CEBblog™ posts you may find interesting:
- Time Will Soon Run Out for Petitions under Prop 47
- Don’t Let Immigration Status Sabotage Your Client’s Sentence
- Should You Handle That Misdemeanor Case?
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