More than two months after California voters approved Proposition 64, few Kings County offenders have taken steps to reduce or seal their marijuana-related criminal convictions.
Effective Nov. 9, 2016, Proposition 64 made it legal for adults 21 and older to possess up to 28.5 grams of marijuana and up to 8 grams of concentrated cannabis for recreational purposes. Adults may also grow and process up to six marijuana plants.
The law also allows those who would not have been guilty of a crime, or would have been guilty of a lesser crime under Prop 64, to petition the court for resentencing, reduced charges or sealing of their criminal records.
Jeff Lewis, court executive officer for the Kings County Superior Court, said his office has only received two petitions since Prop 64 was adopted. Both of those, which were for adult convictions, were submitted in the past two weeks.
“It’s started, and we assume there will be more,” Lewis said.
According to state law, eligible convictions may include possession; planting, harvesting or processing; possession for sale; and unlawful transportation, importation, sale, or gift of marijuana.
Proposition 64 allows an offender to do the following:
- A person currently serving a sentence for an eligible offense may petition the court for resentencing or dismissal of eligible convictions. If the petition meets all criteria for resentencing or dismissal, the court must grant the request unless doing so would pose an “unreasonable risk of danger to public safety.”
- Those who have already completed a sentence for an eligible offense may file an application to have the convictions dismissed and sealed, or redesigned as misdemeanors or infractions.
The Kings County court had not received any petitions for juvenile resentencing or reclassification as of Wednesday.
Once the court receives a Prop 64 petition, Lewis said, the petitioner must serve a copy to the Kings County District Attorney’s Office in person or by mail.
“The DA can respond, providing that they have an objection to reducing the sentence,” Lewis said.
Deputy Kings County District Attorney Phil Esbenshade said his office had not received any petitions as of Wednesday. It remains to be seen whether either of the two filed with the court will qualify for resentencing or dismissal.
“We would have to really look at the specifics of each case to see if it qualifies,” Esbenshade said.
Lewis said he was expecting a flood of petitions similar to what the court saw after the 2014 passage of Proposition 47, which reduced certain felony theft and narcotics crimes to misdemeanors.
Over the following year, the Kings County Superior Court received more than 1,000 petitions from offenders seeking resentencing and more than 600 applications to have felony convictions reclassified as misdemeanors. The bulk of those were filed within a few months of the law’s adoption.
Lewis said the court has received several phone calls from people asking about Prop 64 petitions. He said more people will likely file the forms after the new laws have been in place for a while longer.
“It may just be that people are waiting to see how this progresses,” Lewis said.