Passage of a ballot initiative to reduce the penalties for low-level drug and property crimes will have an immediate and sweeping impact on San Diego’s judicial system, attorneys said Wednesday.
Under Proposition 47, shoplifting, forgery, fraud, petty theft, and possession of small amounts of drugs including cocaine and heroin are among the offenses that will be treated as misdemeanors rather than felonies.
The initiative passed by a decisive margin on Tuesday evening. It takes effect immediately.
That means a lot of changes for prosecutors handling those type of cases. Chief Deputy District Attorney Dave Greenberg said his office will hand off about 3,000 defendants’ cases to the San Diego City Attorney’s Office, which deals with misdemeanors.
“They’re absolutely going to be impacted, so they’re going to have to figure out their staffing,” he said. “They’re going to be receiving up to maybe 280 to 300 new defendants a month that they’re going to have to review and then make decisions on.”
Proposition 47 aims to alleviate prison crowding and save prisoner expenses – instead putting that money toward drug treatment facilities.
Passage of the proposition doesn’t mean inmates will get out of jail immediately, but it does mean future defendants will only be cited by an officer and not booked in jail.
Inmates and prisoners can file petitions to have felony sentences reduced, meaning judges will have to look at each case, delaying any potential prison savings.
“There won’t be money for the substance abuse treatment for at least 18 months to two years,” Greenberg said.