JUVENILES CAN HAVE OFFENSES REDUCED, JUDGE RULES

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East County News Service

August 4, 2015 (San Diego’s East County) - The 4th District Court of Appeal  ruled in late July that Proposition 47’s sentencing reclassification provisions apply equally to children and adults. San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis had argued that juveniles are not eligible to have their past offenses reduced to misdemeanors, even though adults convicted of the same felonies may petition for such relief.

Margaret Dooley-Sammuli, director of the ACLU of California’s Criminal Justice and Drug Policy Project, criticized Dumanis for seeking “the harshest punishments to the most vulnerable San Diegans” and for ignoring the will of voters. She adds, “Had her unsupported reading of the law been upheld, it would have given prosecutors across the state the authority to do what many would consider unthinkable – criminalize children more harshly than adults.”

Proposition 47, a measure which passed with nearly 60% of the vote in November 2014, ended felony sentencing for six petty crimes, including simple drug possession and petty theft, and created a resentencing process for those certain felonies to be retroactively reclassified as misdemeanors.

The ACLU argued that denying juveniles the resentencing relief provided to adults with identical offenses, and denying these juveniles similar relief to that provided to juveniles charged after the initiative went into effect, violates juveniles’ equal protection rights under the California and U.S. Constitution.

The judge ruled that a juvenile named in the case have his conviction on a felony commercial burglary charge reduced to a misdemeanor and his DNA stricken from the record.

Chessie Thacher, an attorney at Keker and Van Nest, reacted to the decision. “Today’s ruling makes the future a little brighter for many young people in San Diego,” she concludes. “The Court recognized that juveniles have the same rights as adults under Proposition 47 and may petition to have eligible felony adjudications reclassified as misdemeanors. Such relief opens up doors in education, employment, and the military, and will assist those facing any future criminal or immigration proceedings.”

Prop 47 was passed with strong support among San Diego voters as well as statewide.