California just took an important first step towards ending the Drug War and looking at other solutions for minor, non-violent crimes.
San Jose, CA. (PRWEB) November 07, 2014
California's Proposition 47 passed by a wide margin on election day. The Los Angeles Times reports that it passed 58.5% to 41.5% with all precincts accounted for. The difference was more than 800,000 votes. "There was quite clear public support for this measure because the public knows it makes little sense to put someone in prison for up to three years for a non-violent petty shoplifting conviction," Northern California Criminal Defense Attorney Cameron Bowman of VIB Law says. "It is also an important symbolic victory as well. This may signal a step towards the end of misguided mass incarceration in California."
The new law makes many non-violent felonies into misdemeanors. Before the passing of Proposition 47, many non-violent felonies could have resulted in a sentence of up to three years in prison. Many of these crimes have now been reclassified as misdemeanors. In California, a misdemeanor conviction can result in a maximum of one year in prison.
Some of the crimes that will be reclassified include fraud, possession of stolen property, and shoplifting if the items in question are not valued at more than $950. Certain drug possession crimes have also been reclassified. This is especially important regarding drugs like cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. Possession of these was previously regarded as a felony.
"There may be thousands of people in jail who may be eligible for early release because of the passage of this measure. If you think that you or a family member may be a member of that population, contact VIB Law. We can determine if you qualify," Bowman says. "And going forward, this is going to empower the people of California who have tired of imposing expensive sentences on people who have committed extremely petty crimes and who would be better served in rehabilitation programs or receiving mental health support." The law may also save California a considerable amount of money that can be re-purposed.
The official California Voter Information Guide describing Proposition 47 specifies that the savings to state and county criminal justice systems could be in "the high hundreds of millions of dollars annually." Any reductions in state prison spending as a result of Proposition 47 are going to be diverted into a fund developed to assist victims of crime, the state jails commission and the California Department of Education.
"There really is no down side to the passing of Proposition 47,” Bowman says. "California just took an important first step towards ending the Drug War and looking at other solutions for minor, non-violent crimes. We’ve tried years of just longer and longer prison sentences. We can now start helping people convicted of these non-violent crimes get their lives back on track.”