New bill would eliminate limits on reducing old, low-level felonies to misdemeanors

New bill would eliminate limits on reducing old, low-level felonies to misdemeanors

Senator Lola Smallwood-Cuevas (D-Los Angeles) has introduced a bill that would eliminate the deadline to apply for reducing old low-level, non-violent felony convictions to misdemeanors. 

The bill would take away the limit that was approved by voters in 2014 under Proposition 47 and would enable Californians with low-level felonies to move past more than 5,000 permanent restrictions on their lives. 

Proposition 47 changed the penalty for simple drug possession and five petty theft related crimes from a felony to a misdemeanor. 

There are more than 40,000 different permanent restrictions on people with felony convictions nationwide, including restrictions on available jobs, housing and education. 

The bill would also ensure that those eligible to reduce an old felony on their record to a misdemeanor will have the opportunity to do so. 

“An old conviction on a person’s record often does not reflect the reality of who someone is and what they have accomplished,” said Senator Smallwood-Cuevas. “Permanently barring someone from jobs, housing, educational opportunities and other keys to stability and economic security undermines our collective ability to progress toward a better, safer future.” 

The bill is sponsored by Californians for Safety and Justice, one of the original co-authors of Proposition 47. As many as one million Californians may be eligible under the new legislation, and so far, nearly 400,000 people have filed applications for record reduction. 

“Preventing people living with a past conviction from positively contributing to their families and our communities makes us all less safe,” said Executive Director of Californians for Safety and Justice Tinisch Hollins. “After someone has completed their sentence and paid their debts, we cannot contimue to allow old legal records to create barriers to opportunity that destabilize families, undermine our economy and worsen racial injustices.” 

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