Editor Note: California’s Proposition 47 reduced a number of “non-serious, nonviolent crimes” that had previously been considered felonies to misdemeanors. Among those crimes were shoplifting, grand theft, receiving stolen property, forgery, fraud, and writing bad checks.
In terms of the numbers, as long as the total value of the stolen property is under $950, it’s simply a slap on the wrist. That also means a thief may now steal something under that limit every single day and it will never rise to felony status.
As more and more states move in this direction… we felt it was our duty to dive into why that’s such a horrible idea.
In what appears to be a growing trend, California is in the news again for legislative actions that are detrimental to law-abiding citizens in their state.
In November of 2014, California passed Proposition 47, officially titled the Reduced Penalties for Some Crimes Initiative.
Its original intent was to lower criminal penalties for various property and drug offenses, which would ease the state’s overcrowded prison system. But inherent in the lowering of penalties was the major unintended consequences that have harmed tens of thousands of law-abiding property owners, and it continues to inflict economic and psychological damage.
California had reached nearly 200 percent of design capacity in its prisons in 2011. To help ease that problem that same year, then California Gov. Jerry Brown approved Assembly Bills 109 and 117, which required new non-violent and non-serious criminals with no histories of sexual offenses to be sent to county jails rather than state prisons.
Now known as realignment, this effort was further supported by a state constitutional amendment, passed by the majority of voters in November 2012, which raised sales taxes and some income taxes to fund new realignment obligations for local governments.
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Also, in 2012, voters approved Proposition 36, which revised the state’s original 1994 “Three Strikes” law which carried a mandatory “25-years to life” sentence for anyone convicted of a third felony. From that point on, life sentences would be required after a third conviction only if that conviction involved a “serious or violent” crime or if the convict’s previous convictions involved murder, rape, or child molestation.
When you eliminate stiff penalties for criminal activity, you almost guarantee an increase in these types of crimes, as there is really no deterrent anymore. Even with these previous measures failing to have the intended results, California voters still approved another criminal justice “reform” proposition, the aforementioned Prop 47. It created a reduction of six non-violent felonies to misdemeanors.
According to The Independent, one of the most notable changes ushered in by Prop 47 was a sudden increase in the rate of motor vehicle break-in thefts. Informally known as “smash-and-grab” burglaries, these offenses became especially more likely in densely populated cities throughout the state.
Vehicle break-ins are by no means a new problem. In fact, break-ins in California were more common in past years. But following years of rapid decline, vehicle break-in rates surged after the passage of Prop 47.