This week’s LA Times’ Prop 47 coverage has been very good, but they didn’t adequately challenge law enforcement’s position: Crime is up because Prop 47 makes it pointless to arrest people for low level drug and theft offenses as those offenses are now misdemeanors that carry no meaningful penalty.
This is simply not true.
1) All of the offenses that were felonies before Prop 47 and are now misdemeanors are wobblers. Wobblers are offenses that can be charged as either felonies or misdemeanors. In LA County, even before Prop 47, these cases would usually resolve as misdemeanor convictions unless the defendant had a lengthy criminal history.
2) Even if the case was resolved as a felony, most of the time these cases resolved for probationary sentences with community labor instead of jail or diversion where a conviction was avoided altogether.
3) Even when defendants were sentenced to LA County jail, due to overcrowding they did a fraction of their time. It was common for people to serve only 3 days on 180-day sentences.
4) Since the passage of AB109 in 2011, people don’t go to actual state prison for any of the felony offenses they are now part of Prop 47. They did their time locally or were put on community supervision. Crime continued to decline since 2011.
Since Prop 47, people are serving much more of the time when they’re sentenced to county jail. Much closer to their actual sentences.
So why are the police making fewer arrests when nothing has changed? Why is crime really on the rise?