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New ballot measure aims to reduce sentences for nonviolent crimes

Depending on how California residents vote on the 2014 ballot this November, good news could be coming to people who are or have faced criminal charges for certain nonviolent crimes. That’s because the new ballot measure, if passed, would convert some crimes that were previously considered felonies into misdemeanors instead.

Some of our Alameda County readers may have already heard about the measure and are excited to see how it will affect criminal cases in the state. If you haven’t heard about the measure, here is a list of things that could change:

  • Sentences for certain drug possession charges will be reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor
  • Sentences for some nonviolent crimes including receiving stolen property, petty theft, check forging and writing bad checks below the amount of $950 will be considered a misdemeanor instead of a felony
  • Persons currently serving felony sentences may be resentenced if they are not deemed a public safety risk

It’s important for our readers to keep in mind though that this will not be the case if a person has previous convictions for murder, rape or child molestation. It will also not apply to persons who are currently registered as a sex offender either.

Though a number of reports have pointed out that this new proposition could save the state an estimated $250 million annually, we would like to point out the good this will do for those accused of these crimes. As you may have heard argued in the past, advocates for criminal justice reform contend that rehabilitation often works better than incarceration for nonviolent crimes. The new sentencing guidelines would then offer better help to those accused, instead of incarcerating them and doing nothing.

Sources: Reuters, “California measure reducing sentences for nonviolent crimes heads to ballot,” Sharon Bernstein, June 27, 2014

The California Secretary of State, “Qualified Statewide Ballot Measures, Proposition 47,” Accessed July 3, 2014

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