Time running out to clean up rap sheet under Prop 47

Read the full article, by Tammerlin Drummond (Oakland Tribune), on Contra Costa Times. 

24 July 2015 – One recent Saturday, a man walked into the UFCW Union Hall in Hayward for a “record clearance clinic.” He had eight felonies on his rap sheet for crack possession and was seeking legal assistance to get them reduced to misdemeanors.

The stakes are high. As long as he has a felony record, he is automatically disqualified from many jobs regardless of his skills.

He is banned from public housing. Many private landlords will refuse to rent to him. If he wants to go to college, he can’t get a student loan. The list goes on and on.

Proposition 47, passed last November, was intended to give people convicted of certain nonviolent felonies — especially for drug crimes such as these — a fresh start. The voter initiative changed simple drug possession and property crimes under $950 from felonies to misdemeanors. It is retroactive. Some 4,000 people have been released from state prison. An estimated 1 million who have old convictions or are on probation or parole may be eligible for felony reduction.

Yet informing people — especially those with older convictions — presents a big challenge.

“We’re trying to tell people not only about the law change but about the significant benefits of a record change in an age when a felony conviction has tremendous collateral consequences,” says Lenore Anderson, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice and co-author of Proposition 47.

The Hayward clinic is part of a full-court press statewide by lawmakers, probation and court staff, community organizations, pro-bono attorneys, public defenders, advocates for the formerly incarcerated, and churches to get the word out before the law expires in November 2017 and the window of opportunity closes.

Assemblyman Bill Quirk, D-Hayward, chair of the public safety committee and one of the event co-sponsors, says he’s encouraging other lawmakers to hold similar clinics in Alameda County and throughout the state. “People can do things when they’re younger and now it’s 10 years later and they’re different people,” Quirk says. “The only way we can get people to reform their lives is to make them eligible to get work.”

At the recent Hayward clinic, attorneys from the Alameda County Public Defender and the East Bay Community Law Center provided free legal advice to some two dozen people throughout the day. Attorneys and law students under their supervision evaluated the rap sheets of formerly incarcerated people to determine which felonies might be eligible for Proposition 47 relief or if not, some form of dismissal.But even obtaining a rap sheet to start the petition process is a stretch for people with limited financial means. It can cost $50 just to get one’s fingerprints processed and file an application with the Department of Justice for a complete criminal history. Proposition 47 petitions must include every conviction.

“Poverty is a major obstacle for people who are already set back financially because of their conviction,” says Manuel La Fontane, an organizer with All of Us Or None, an advocacy organization for formerly incarcerated people and their families. “You have to pay for your rap sheet, which can incur a cost that people would rather put toward their kids’ school.”

The criminal justice bureaucracy is daunting. Individuals must file a separate petition for each conviction that is not part of the same case at the courthouse where they were sentenced. So if someone has multiple convictions in different cities — even within the same county — it can be a logistical nightmare. Different judges will review the same Proposition 47 petition from the same individual to determine whether he deserves a felony reduction based upon evidence of rehabilitation, whether he has paid his fines and restitution, among other factors.

“It’s very burdensome,” says Eliza Hersh, director of the East Bay Community Law Center’s Clean Slate program, which provides pro bono re-entry legal services. “If California wants to invest in a more fair and efficient way to help people clean up their records and move on? There’s a way we can do that.”

How about a system that will enable e-filing of Proposition 47 petitions? We are, after all, in the digital age.

There will be a Proposition 47 clinic Aug. 1 in Oakland, co-sponsored by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda. It will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at At Thy Word Ministries, 8915 International Blvd.


Join LSPC this Tuesday July 28 at Mad Props!


Mad Props is a night of art organized by Bay Peace. Some of the other sponsoring organizations are CURYJ, Ella Baker Center, Black Workers’ Center, and Urban Peace Movement.  Youth artists will be presenting and largely facilitating the space for storytelling and healing, and personal testimony. Together we will launch a campaign to repeal Prop 21!

There will also be resources for directly impacted community members. Our very own staff attorney, Endria Richardson, will be there to help out with Bay PeaceProp 47 information. You can learn more about LSPC’s work on Prop 47 here.

Check out the event flyer to the right for more information.

 Tuesday, June 28
6:30 -10 PM

Cury J
2289 International Blvd
Oakland, CA

Proposition 47: The clock is ticking to apply for relief!

Check out the full article, written by our very own staff attorney Brittany Stonesifer, in the SF BayView here!

29 June 2015 – By now, there’s a good chance that you’ve heard of Proposition 47 (Prop 47). With more than 3,200 people released from state prisons and 115,000 petitions filed under the law within the first six months of its passage, Prop 47 is likely the most significant reform to California criminal justice policy since 2011’s Realignment.

Oldtimers who played Monopoly as kids will remember fondly the “Get out of jail free” card.

Like Realignment, Prop 47 is far from perfect and, as highlighted by Legal Services for Prisoners with Children’s Dorsey Nunn in an article last November, it does not challenge the dominant narrative about incarceration because it explicitly excludes certain people from relief. Prop 47 does, however, demonstrate that California is ready to push back against excessively harsh sentences and provides the opportunity for tens of thousands of people to reduce their criminal records and, in some cases, secure early release from prison or jail.

Since Prop 47 passed last November, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children has been heavily engaged in public education and community outreach in an attempt to maximize the number of people who will receive relief under the law. It is critical that individuals with eligible criminal convictions act quickly because the law created only a three-year application window.

Petitions for Prop 47 relief must be filed by Nov. 5, 2017.

So what exactly does Prop 47 do and who is eligible? Prop 47 converts specified drug possession and theft crimes from felonies or “wobblers” to straight misdemeanors. The bad news is that the law is more narrow than many people believe because it only applies to a set list of California convictions; it does not cover all drug or theft felonies and it does not cover out of state convictions.

The good news, however, is that the law is retroactive and eligible people can apply for relief either while they are serving their sentences or after the sentence has been completed, even if it was completed many years ago.

Eligible crimes

The following is the complete list of crimes that are eligible to be reduced to misdemeanors under Prop 47:

Theft crimes:

  1. Any type of property theft – including shoplifting by entering a business during regular business hours with intent to commit theft – if the value of the property is $950 or less. (California Penal Code Sections 490.2 and 459.5.)
  2. Receiving stolen property, if the value of the property is $950 or less. (California Penal Code Section 496(a).)
  3. Forgery of a check, money order etc. for $950 or less, unless the person is also convicted of identity theft under Penal Code section 530.5. (California Penal Code Section 473(b).)
  4. Passing bad check(s) for $950 or less, unless the person has three or more prior convictions for Penal Code sections 470, 473, 475 or 476. (California Penal Code Section 476a(b).)
  5. Petty theft with a prior, unless the person has a prior conviction for a theft offense or elder abuse, served a term for the prior, and is required to register as a sex offender; then it is a wobbler. (California Penal Code Section 666.)

Drug possession crimes – not with intent to sell:

  1. Possession of various controlled substances, including cocaine and heroin. (California Health and Safety Code Section 11350.)
  2. Possession of concentrated cannabis. (California Health and Safety Code Section 11357(a).)
  3. Possession of methamphetamine. (California Health and Safety Code Section 11377.)

Though the crimes listed above will now usually be punishable only as misdemeanors, the following people with “disqualifying priors” are, unfortunately, excluded from relief under Prop 47:

  1. Those with any prior convictions for “serious or violent” offenses under Penal Code section 667(e)(2)(C)(iv), or
  2. Those with any prior convictions which require sex offender registration under Penal Code section 290(c). This includes many, but not all, sex offense convictions.

If you have a conviction for one or more of the above listed eligible crimes and do not have any convictions for the disqualifying priors, it is important to keep a few considerations in mind before applying for relief. For those who are currently serving their sentences, reducing a Prop 47 felony to a misdemeanor will likely mean a shorter sentence and possibly immediate release.

Reducing a conviction to a misdemeanor under Prop 47 does not restore gun rights, however, so if this is important to an applicant, he or she should speak with an attorney about other options before filing. Similarly, reducing a conviction to a misdemeanor using Prop 47 may remove deportability for immigrant applicants, but they are still strongly advised to speak with an immigration attorney before submitting a Prop 47 application.

Individuals who are interested in learning more about Prop 47 – including how and where to file an application, where to get legal help with an application and how Prop 47 works with other record-reduction options – are encouraged to contact Legal Services for Prisoners with Children as soon as possible at 1540 Market St., Suite 490, San Francisco, CA 94102. You can also see our manual, “Using Proposition 47 to Reduce Convictions and Restore Rights.”


Upcoming Prop 47 Record Clearing Clinic in Hayward, CA!

LSPC team members helping out at another Prop 47 clinic in East Palo Alto

LSPC’s June 13th Prop 47 Record Clearing event in East Palo Alto. Over 60 people had their records cleared that day.

On Saturday June 27th, we will be at UFCW Union Hall sponsoring another Prop 47 clinic. The event will be free, community based, and kid friendly. There will also be free food and both local job and housing resources.

Check out the event flyer for more information.

Saturday, June 27, 11am – 4pm
28870 Mission Blvd, Hayward, CA 94544

RSVP by visiting http://goo.gl/NlGeHg or by calling (510) 583-8818

What is a Prop 47 Record Clearing Clinic? An opportunity for people with conviction histories to receive information about their legal rights under Prop 47 and about other opportunities for expungement relief. Attendees will be able to fill out a Prop 47 petition with onsite help.

Please bring your Identification and Statewide RAP Sheet if you can!

You can also read more about LSPC’s work with Prop 47 here.

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