On November 4, 2014, California voters passed Proposition 47, a law that reclassified some felonies to misdemeanors. Proposition 47 changed the law so that some low level, non-violent felonies can be charged as misdemeanors for most people. Proposition 47 also allows most people who have qualifying felony convictions in their past to petition the court to reclassify those convictions to misdemeanors. Petitions must be filed no later than November 4, 2022.
Offenses that can be reclassified as misdemeanors include theft, forgery, drug possession, burglary of a commercial establishment during regular business hours, and receiving stolen property. Persons required to register as sex offenders or who have certain prior convictions are excluded from relief under Proposition 47.
California voters passed Proposition 64 on November 8, 2016 which legalizes the responsible use of marijuana by adults 21 and over. It also reduces the criminal penalties for most remaining marijuana offenses from felonies to misdemeanors and some misdemeanors to infractions. Proposition 64 applies to both juveniles and adults. The proposition allows most people previously convicted of most marijuana felonies to have a judge reclassify their felony convictions as misdemeanors. It also allows most people previously convicted of marijuana misdemeanors to have a judge reclassify their misdemeanor convictions as infractions. It also allows some individuals to have their prior convictions dismissed and sealed entirely.
A variety of factors determine which crimes can be reclassified from felonies to misdemeanors or infractions, or dismissed and sealed, including the defendant’s age at the time of the offense, the type of marijuana-related crime resulting in the conviction, and whether certain disqualifying prior convictions are present. Determining if someone is eligible for relief under Proposition 64 can be complicated.
Since the passage of Propositions 47 and 64, the Santa Clara County District Attorney’s Office has worked proactively with the Santa Clara County Public Defender’s Office and the Superior Court to proactively implement the law. Although the court can grant relief only upon the filing of a petition, in many cases the court and attorneys can resolve the matter without the need for the person convicted of the felony or misdemeanor of having to make an appearance.