Proposition 47 created new misdemeanors and reclassified several felony theft offenses as misdemeanors. Proposition 47 also reclassified drug possession offenses under Health and Safety Code sections 11350, 11357(a) [concentrated cannabis], and § 11377 as strictly misdemeanors punishable by up to one year in county jail. This blog addresses the changes Prop 47 made to California’s law regarding several theft offenses.

The misdemeanor provisions implemented by the passing of Prop 47 for both theft and drug offenses do not apply to persons with one or more prior convictions for offenses under Penal Code § 667(e)(2)(C)(iv) or for sex offenses that require registration under Penal Code § 290(c).

The provisions under Proposition’s 47 realignment include:

Petty Theft

Proposition 47 added Penal Code § 490.2 to more explicitly define petty theft as “obtaining any property by theft where the value of the money, labor, real or personal property taken” does not exceed $950. This new definition of petty theft applies notwithstanding § 487 “or any other provision of law defining grand theft.” (Pen. Code, § 490.2(a).) This new definition of petty theft nonetheless appears to apply regardless of how specific categories of property are treated under separate California statutes. However, this provision does not apply to any theft that may be charged as an infraction “pursuant to any other provision of law.”

Petty Theft with a Prior

Proposition 47 eliminated the offense of petty theft with a prior under Penal Code § 666 by narrowing the category of persons subject to punishment under that section to only include persons required to register under the Sex Offender Registration Act, persons with prior violent or serious felony convictions under § 667.5(e)(2)(C)(iv), and persons convicted of Penal Code § 368(d) or (e) [specified theft crimes involving elder or dependent adults]. Thus, Prop 47 eliminated the offense for most defendants.


Before Proposition 47 was passed by California voters, forgery (Penal Code § 473) was a wobbler offense. Proposition 47 reclassified forgery of specified instruments involving $950 or less as exclusively a misdemeanor. Note, the misdemeanor provision does not apply to any person convicted of both forgery and identity theft under Penal Code § 530.5.


Prop 47 added Penal Code § 459.5 to create a new misdemeanor offense called “shoplifting,” punishable by up to 6 months in county jail. Shoplifting would be 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 does not exceed $950. Any other entry into a commercial establishment with intent to commit larceny is burglary. Any act of shoplifting as defined above must be charged as shoplifting. No person charged with shoplifting may also be charged with burglary or theft of the same property.

Receiving Stolen Property

Before Proposition 47, a violation of Penal Code § 496 was a wobbler offense, except that if the value of the property did not exceed $950, the district attorney or grand jury could specify the offense as exclusively a misdemeanor “in the interests of justice.” Proposition 47 made all violations of section 496 that do not exceed $950 as strictly misdemeanors, eliminating the prosecution’s discretion to charge such offenses as felonies.

Insufficient Funds

Until Proposition 47, any violation of Penal Code § 476a was a wobbler offense, except that the offense was strictly a misdemeanor if the total amount did not exceed $450 unless the person was previously convicted of one of several specified theft offenses. Proposition 47 increased the total threshold amount for misdemeanors from $450 to $950 and increased the number of disqualifying prior convictions from one to “three or more.”

There are alternative forms of recovery available to those accused of a crime in California. It is important to determine their applicability to your criminal matter. John Patrick Dolan has over forty years of experience working to help his clients obtain the best resolution possible when freedom and reputation are at stake. The attorneys at the Dolan Law Offices are experienced in helping California residents clear their criminal records. Call us today at (760) 775-3739 or find out more online here.

What Is The Effect Of Realignment On Theft Offenses?

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