December 21 Activist Mikki Norris forwards an article from the San Diego Union Tribune and lauds the Public Defender’s˙efforts to help people reduce marijuana-related felonies to misdemeanors —an immediate pay-off for California’s legalization vote in November. “I hope all the counties will follow suit and offer this legal assistance,” Norris writes. “Yay, Prop 64!”
Abe Gardner at the Napa County Public Defender’s Office comments, “We’re all over it, had an office wide training on it yesterday and already got some people out of jail. It’s a big deal.”
Dana Littlefield’s informative article in the Union Tribune quotes Jane Gilbert and Rachel Solov from the SDPD’s office:
…For defendants dogged by a felony conviction, even one handed down decades ago, the ballot measure could be a life changer if they are resentenced or the charges are dismissed.
On Dec. 5, the office filed 63 petitions with the court and another 50 on Dec. 12, Gilbert said. The plan is to complete about 50 filings a week.
The District Attorney’s Office reviews each of the cases to determine whether any information in the records would disqualify a defendant. If not, the matter is usually resolved without the defendant having to come to court…
So far, the process seems to be running smoothly, most likely because the district attorney, public defender and court had already faced similar challenges after the passage of Proposition 47 two years ago.
That proposition allowed people convicted of certain low-level felonies, including simple drug possession and some property crimes, to ask for their crimes to be reduced to misdemeanors, no matter when they were committed.
Once it was voted into law, attorneys began working with the court to process a flood of petitions, work that continues today.
“We learned from a lot of mistakes after Prop. 47,” said Gilbert, who explained that the Public Defender˙s Office filed too many petitions all at once after November 2014 without first determining which cases should be given priority…
Gilbert said working with the District Attorney˙s Office and the court also taught all parties to be more trusting of one another.
“This is not as adversarial as trying to prove someone guilty or not guiltyˇ she said. “This is pretty straightforward. Either they˙re eligible or they˙re not.”
Although it˙s not clear exactly how many people with marijuana convictions on their records will be affected by Proposition 64, Gilbert and Solov said the number is far lower than those affected by Proposition 47.
The sheer quantity is a fraction of what was there with Prop. 47, said Solov, who said her office has reviewed more than 30,400 petitions submitted under that ballot measure.
So far, under Proposition 47, more than 20,500 reductions have been granted by the Superior Court in San Diego County.