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Criminal defense researchers look into impact of Proposition 47

The ways in which crimes are punished and the length of sentences is often considered to have an impact on reoffense rates. In 2014, California voters chose to reduce penalties for several different convictions formerly categorized as felonies. This change to the criminal defense system in California was controversial and contested, so these follow-up studies to the passage of Proposition 47 are of high interest to many in the state.

In 2014, Proposition 47 transitioned what were once felonies into misdemeanors. This lowered sentences for many of them from prison terms to minimum jail sentences. Among the criminal sentences impacted were drug possession, theft, shoplifting, identity theft, receiving stolen property, writing bad checks and check forgery. 

Recent research shows that larcenies, shoplifting and other theft increased during this same period. The research, conducted by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California, found that car theft increased about 9 percent in the time since the penalties were softened under Proposition 47. This equates to about 135 more thefts per 100,000 residents. Theft from motor vehicles made up about three-quarters of the increase.

However, researchers found no relationship between violent crime increases and Proposition 47, saying any increase in violent crime was caused by unrelated changes in how these incidents are reported. Individuals facing charges in California should consider how the charge is categorized under Proposition 47, as a misdemeanor can have very different consequences than a felony. Those seeking guidance in these issues should connect with a criminal lawyer in the state. An attorney will work to protect the legal rights of the accused while pursuing the most beneficial outcome possible.

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