The state Supreme Court ruled Monday that Proposition 47, which reclassifies certain felony charges as misdemeanors, can be applied retroactively when affected cases are used as sentencing enhancements for repeat offenders, possibly reducing the amount of time they serve in custody.
The ruling came following a review of three cases, including a Los Angeles County case involving a defendant named Stevenson Buycks.
Buycks pleaded guilty to felony narcotics possession in 2013 and was released on his own recognizance to attend a drug treatment program. The next month he was arrested for shoplifting at a Home Depot. When he was convicted of second-degree robbery and related counts for the Home Depot theft, Buycks was sentenced to an extra two years because he committed the crime while out on release on the prior felony count.
When Buycks’ narcotics conviction was reduced to a misdemeanor under Prop 47, he argued that the sentencing enhancement in his robbery case should be dropped. A lower court disagreed, but an appellate court ruled the enhancement should be stricken.
The Supreme Court opinion, written by Chief Justice Tani Gorre Cantil-Sakauye, affirmed the appellate court’s ruling.
Enhancements for committing a second felony while out on bail or on one’s own recognizance can be retroactively stricken if the judgments were not finalized prior to Prop 47 taking effect in 2014, according to the Supreme Court ruling. The same is true for enhancements for prior prison terms served for felony convictions now deemed to be misdemeanors.
In an Imperial County case reviewed by the state Supreme Court, Laura Reynosos Valenzuela was sentenced to 16 months in prison in October 2012 for receiving stolen property, then a felony. Roughly two years later, Valenzuela was convicted of carjacking, evading officers and possession of methamphetamine. An extra year was added to her sentence for those crimes because of her prior prison term.
When her stolen property conviction was reduced to a misdemeanor, she asked on appeal for the one-year enhancement to be dropped. The appellate court rejected her argument, finding that the purpose of the enhancement was to punish recidivist conduct. That court also concluded that nothing in Prop 47 indicated an intent to retroactively mitigate the collateral consequences of felonies reduced to misdemeanors.
But the Supreme Court reversed that ruling and remanded the case for resentencing. It based its decision on language in the proposition stating that a felony resentenced or redesignated “shall be considered a misdemeanor for all purposes.”
The court’s ruling concluded, however, that enhancements related to felony charges, rather than felony convictions, should not be mitigated by Proposition 47.