Earlier this month 58 percent of voters approved Proposition 47.
The measure intends to save taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year in reduced prison and jail costs. Under the initiative, savings will be diverted to rehabilitation programs intended to reduce crime. This law calls for crimes such as shoplifting, forgery, fraud, petty theft, and possession of small amounts of drugs such as cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamines as misdemeanors rather than felonies. Defendants incarcerated can now petition judges to have their felony convictions and sentences reduced as a result of the passage of this proposition.
There is no doubt that Proposition 47 will bring drastic change to California.
Essentially this law reduces what was once felonies to misdemeanors in California Criminal Court. However, Proposition 47 does not change immigration law but would allow immigrant defendants with eligible criminal convictions a chance to have a felony reduced from a misdemeanor in California Criminal Court. This reduction may or may not help an immigrant defendant in immigration court, but I suspect relief may be had for a defendant when it comes to criminal sentencing in California Criminal Court.
The bottom line is that Federal Immigration Law has many complexities and it is difficult to make a blanket statement saying that the sentencing reduction would offer immigration relief. It is more accurate to announce that Prop 47’s substantial approval by the voters sends a message to prosecutors and judges that petty crimes and drug possession crimes are something that should be dealt with alternative means other than extended jail. In immigration court one could hope that immigration judges and Department of Homeland Security government attorneys understand the will of the voters when applying immigration law to defendants in the above mentioned situations.