California Supreme Court: Prop. 47 Applies to Plea Deals

In the latest court case involving Prop. 47, the California Supreme Court recently held that the voter-approved ballot measure that reduced penalties for certain drug and property crimes from felonies to misdemeanors, applies to prisoners convicted under plea deals. The panel unanimously held that Prop. 47 did not create an exception for prisoners whose sentences are based on plea deals that included the dismissal of more serious charges, therefore those convicted are eligible for Prop. 47’s benefits.

The case arose from a Los Angeles County case in which prosecutors agreed to a deal that dismissed a robbery charge and allowed the defendant to plead guilty to a lesser charge of grand theft in exchange for a six-year sentence. Prop. 47 reduced that grand theft charge to a misdemeanor, so the defendant petitioned for a lower sentenced for that already-pled down conviction. Prosecutors argued that they were entitled to have the original charges reinstated if such prisoners chose to seek a reduced sentence because those prisoners would otherwise be able to unfairly escape their sentence, “their part of the plea deal — and get an added benefit to which they were not entitled.” They further argued that they were entitled to the six-year sentence the defendant agreed to as part of his plea deal, and that they should be allowed to cancel the plea bargain in response to his petition.

Most cases and many felony ones are resolved by plea agreements rather than going to trial.  Legal experts said the court’s decision will have limited impact because most trial courts in the state have been extending Proposition 47’s benefits to inmates with plea deals even before Thursday’ ruling.

Plea Deals for Felonies

A plea bargain is an agreement between a defendant and a prosecutor, in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty or no contest in exchange for the prosecutor to drop one or more charges, reduce a charge to a less serious offense, or recommend to the judge a specific sentence (which is usually a more lenient sentence). For those facing felonies, this is usually the preferred alternative than facing a jury trial for a crime that carries a much higher prison sentence.

After you have been charged, you must first plead “not guilty” in your first court appearance.  You are required to answer to the charge of your original crime either way. From there, the prosecutor will typically want to negotiate to avoid trial, and lighten his work load. It is recommended you have an experienced attorney negotiate out your felony for you.

San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you, or someone you love, has been charged with one of the petty theft crimes covered by Proposition 47, such as a theft crime, drug-related crime, or forgery, call an experienced San Diego criminal defense lawyer today and ask for a free consultation to learn whether the reforms of Proposition 47 are applicable to you. The Law Offices of David M. Boertje represents clients in all areas of criminal law, handles all misdemeanor and felony criminal cases, and represents individuals throughout San Diego County. Our office has successfully represented many defendants and we are dedicated to keeping you out of jail. Consultations are 100% confidential – don’t wait, call today!