What Changes Did Prop 47 Make to Theft and Drug Crimes in California?

Proposition 47 was passed by California voters in 2014, reducing penalties for certain nonviolent offenses. It was called the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act.

In particular, the law recategorized certain acts from felonies to misdemeanors, which is a lesser charge. See our Guide to Felonies vs Misdemeanors vs Infractions.

However, the new misdemeanor provisions do not apply to offenders with one or more prior convictions for certain offenses1specified under California Penal Code Section 667(e)(2)(C)(iv), or for offenses that require registering as a sex offender.2under section 290(c)

How did California Prop 47 change theft and drug possession offenses?

The following theft and drug possession offenses have been reclassified as misdemeanors by Prop 47.


Prop 47 created a new misdemeanor offense called “shoplifting.” It is punishable by up to 6 months in county jail.3California Penal Code section 459.5

Shoplifting is defined as “entering a commercial establishment with intent to commit larceny while that establishment is open during regular business hours” where the value of the property is $950 or less.

When a person otherwise enters into a store with intent to commit larceny, this is defined as burglary.


Prop 47 reclassified forgery of certain financial instruments involving an amount $950 or less from a felony or wobbler to exclusively a misdemeanor.4California Penal Code section 473 The instruments include “a check, bond, bank bill, note, cashier’s check, traveler’s check, or money order.”

Insufficient Funds

Writing a check with the knowledge that you don’t have enough in the account may be charged as a crime of insufficient funds (aka “writing a bad check”).5Cal Penal Code Sec 476a

Prop 47 increased the threshold amount to $950 or less to be treated as a misdemeanor. It also increased the number of disqualifying prior convictions from 1 to 3 or more. This means that if you have been convicted for writing a bad check 3 or more times, any future such acts will be treated as a felony.

Petty Theft

Prop 47 defines “petty theft” as “obtaining any property by theft where the value of the money, labor, real or personal property taken” is $950 or less.6Cal Penal Code section 490.2 These offenses are misdemeanors if not valued over $950.

Receiving Stolen Property

Prop 47 increased the threshold amount for the crime of receiving stolen property to $950 to be treated as a misdemeanor.7Cal Penal Code section 496

Drug Possession

Prop 47 reduced drug possession offenses (for personal use) – “possession of controlled substances” – for example, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, marijuana, cannabis, to misdemeanors punishable by up to one year in county jail.8California Health and Safety Code sections 11350, 11357(a) [concentrated cannabis], 11377


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