Capitol Alert: Measure to reduce sentences for theft, drugs on California ballot

ccadelago@sacbee.comJune 26, 2014 

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An initiative to reduce crimes such as drug possession and receiving stolen property from felonies to misdemeanors - and to use the savings for mental health and drug treatment programs - has qualified for the ballot in November, the secretary of state announced Thursday.

The push by San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón and former San Diego Police Chief William Lansdowne would require misdemeanor sentences for petty theft and writing bad checks of $950 or less. It would require resentencing for those serving time for such nonviolent felonies unless the court finds it a risk to public safety.

Through March, proponents' "Californians for Safe Neighborhoods and Schools" committee had raised $1.3 million and spent just over $1 million, including $938,000 on signature gathering.

The top contributors through March were the Atlantic Advocacy Fund, a New York-based charity established by billionaire Charles Feeney that gave $600,000, and businessman B. Wayne Hughes Jr., who gave $250,000.

The initiative comes two years after voters passed a measure to roll back the three strikes law by imposing life sentences only when new felony convictions are serious or violent. The latest effort still allows for felony sentences if the person was previously convicted of rape, murder or child molestation, or was required to register as a sex offender.

Budget analysts predict the measure could save hundreds of millions in annual court and criminal justice costs that could go to truancy prevention, mental health and substance abuse treatment and victim services.

PHOTO: San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, right and Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley, left, smile during a news conference in front of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in San Francisco on May 9, 2012. (AP Photo/Paul Sakuma)

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