California has recently passed a piece of legislation that could effectively reclassify a pending, ruled, or served conviction for felony to a misdemeanor. This means a significant improvement to a convicted individual’s future prospects.

Entitled the “Safe Neighborhood and Schools Act,” the new laws were submitted during the November 2014 sessions as Proposition 47, then called the “Reduced Penalties for Some Crimes Initiative” and approved. It is now part of the Penal Code (§1170.18) and technically revises several other sections in the Penal as well as the Health and Safety Code sections of California law.

Essentially, Prop 47 addressed the reclassification of non-serious i.e. less than $950 value and non-violent i.e. unarmed property and drug crimes from a felony to a misdemeanor. This may include possession of drugs in small quantities, shoplifting, and hot checks.

This is a major break for a lot of petty criminals because the laws allow for the reclassification for even those who have already served out their sentences to petition for a modification of their criminal record. When executed properly, the petition will take about 30 days to be processed. Individuals who are on parole or in custody may be reclassified immediately upon petition.

Prop 47 impacts significantly on the employability of qualified felons because once their petition is granted, the felony conviction is erased from their records (effectively expunging it) to be replaced with a misdemeanor, and the employee may rightly claim that they have not been convicted of a felony. Employers routinely reject job applicants that have been convicted of a felony, rarely for a misdemeanor.

However, reclassification is not automatic; it must be petitioned by the individual or their criminal defense lawyer. Reclassification is initiated by submitting a Prop 47 Petition or Penal Code section 1170.18 Petition (they are the same form) to the county clerk’s office. Each county may have slightly different ways of processing the petition but generally they are simple enough if you have all the information. It is still advisable to have a competent lawyer in the county to execute the petition for you to handle any possible objections that the prosecutor’s office may raise.