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Expungement Relief for Proposition 47 Beneficiaries

Posted on July 31, 2017

The California Court of Appeal issued an opinion holding that a petitioner who served time in state prison and later moved to reduce their felony conviction to a misdemeanor is entitled to the benefits of expungement relief.

On November 4, 2014, the voters in California approved Proposition 47, known as “The Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act” intending to ensure that prison spending is focused on violent and serious offenses and digress on felony punishment for those with non-violent felony convictions who are serving time in state prison. Consequently, a certain offense that would ordinarily qualify as felony offenses, are now misdemeanors only. The act was deemed retroactive thereby allowing those serving a sentence for a qualifying felony, could petition the court for reduction to a misdemeanor.

The question remained whether those who served time in state prison and later moved to reduce their felony to a misdemeanor could obtain the benefits of an expungement. A defendant is not eligible to obtain an expungement if they served time in state prison. A misdemeanor, however, carries a maximum sentence of one (1) year in the county jail. Therefore, the question presented before the court was whether a defendant whose prior felony conviction has been designated as a misdemeanor pursuant to Proposition 47 obtain relief under section 1203.4 despite having served a prison sentence for the prior conviction?

In People v. Khamvongsa the court issued an opinion holding that the fact the defendant served a prison term for a conviction that has been reclassified as a misdemeanor does not qualify them from relief under Penal Code 1203.4. The court stated that the plain language of [Proposition 47] demonstrates the voters’ intent to treat a redesignated misdemeanor like any other misdemeanor, except with regard to firearm restrictions. In other words, once the court reclassifies the conviction as a misdemeanor, “the offense thereafter is deemed a ‘misdemeanor for all purposes.’”

For more information, contact an Orange County criminal defense attorney.

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