Last November, California voters took a stand against our overcrowded prisons by approving Proposition 47, which turned numerous non-violent felonies into misdemeanors. The bill not only affected those accused of future crimes, but also those who were already imprisoned -resulting in 2700 inmates being released from prison. The L.A. Times reports that while drug arrests are down, property crimes are up. California’s Proposition 47 effects include the fact that the jails are also less crowded since many minor drug offenders are either not being arrested or just given a citation without being taken to jail.
As is common in this situation though, the law has had some effects that have surprised many voters, including:
Reduced DNA Databases
In California, police are legally permitted to obtain DNA samples from convicts -but only those who have been convicted of felonies. These DNA samples are often ran against samples obtained as evidence in order to help police identify additional suspects that already have felonies on their record. Now, people convicted of crimes listed in California’s Proposition 47 cannot be DNA tested and law enforcement agencies aren’t certain if they can keep the samples obtained from those who were released under the bill.
Legislators are considering revising the bill to make DNA samples mandatory for those convicted of crimes listed under California’s Proposition 47, but many, including most defense attorneys and civil rights advocates believe this is an invasion of privacy for non-violent offenders. Additionally, opponents argue that our state’s forensic departments are already overwhelmed with samples and do not need additional workload just as prisons do not need to be overcrowded.
Date Rape Drug Charges and California’s Proposition 47
Prior to Prop 47, possession of “date rape drugs,” specifically ketamine, GHB and Rohypnol, was a felony. Now possession of these substances can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, as determined by the prosecutor.
Again legislators are considering a revision of the law to return possession of these substances to a felony charge. Unlike other illegal substances that people take for recreational purposes, law enforcement officials argue that these drugs are most often used by predators for the purpose of raping victims, so they should carry stricter penalties. Again, criminal lawyers tend to oppose this change as the current law allows prosecutors to make a judgement call based on the circumstances of the case, particularly whether or not the person has a prior sexual offense on his or her record or has been previously caught with a date rape drug in his or her possession.
Criminal Record Revisions
Because California’s Proposition 47 applies to those who have been convicted of specific crimes in the past, those who were previously convicted of certain crimes mentioned in the bill may be able to have their criminal record altered to show that they were convicted of a misdemeanor and not a felony. Some people may even be able to have the charges expunged from their record all together if they have already served the sentence in its entirety.
It is worth noting though that if you have crimes such as murder, rape or child molestation on your record, you will not be eligible to have the charges reclassified on your record. Also, all change requests must be filed by November 2017, so you should act quickly. If you need help or have any questions about getting your record revised, please call an attorney to discuss your individual situation.
If you have any questions about California’s Proposition 47 and how it affects your rights, please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation with Peter M. Liss.
Creative Commons Image via Wheeler Cowperthwaite