November ballot measure allows felony charges, increases sentences for drug and theft crimes

Secretary of State Shirley N. Weber, Ph.D. announces an initiative that became eligible for the Nov. 5, 2024, General Election ballot June 10.

California Secretary of State Shirley N. Weber, Ph.D.

If passed, the bill allows felony charges and increases sentences for certain drug and theft crimes.

In order to become eligible for the ballot, the initiative needed 546,651 valid petition signatures, which is equal to 5 percent of the total votes cast for governor in the November 2022 General Election.

A measure can become eligible via random sampling of petition signatures if the sampling projects that the number of valid signatures is greater than 110 percent of the required number. The initiative needed at least 601,317 projected valid signatures to become eligible by random sampling, and it has exceeded that threshold today.

On June 27, 2024, the Secretary of State will certify the initiative as qualified for the Nov. 5, 2024, General Election ballot, unless it is withdrawn by the proponent prior to certification pursuant to Elections Code section 9604(b).

The Attorney General’s official title and summary of the measure is as follows: 
Allows felony charges and increases sentences for certain drug and theft crimes. Initiative statute. 

  • Allows felony charges for possessing certain drugs, including fentanyl, and for thefts under $950 — both currently chargeable only as misdemeanors — with two prior drug or two prior theft convictions, as applicable. Defendants who plead guilty to felony drug possession and complete treatment can have charges dismissed.
  • Increases sentences for other specified drug and theft crimes.
  • Increased prison sentences may reduce savings that currently fund mental health and drug treatment programs, K-12 schools, and crime victims; any remaining savings may be used for new felony treatment program.

Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local governments
Increased state criminal justice system costs potentially in the hundreds of millions of dollars annually, primarily due to an increase in the state prison population. Some of these costs could be offset by reductions in state spending on local mental health and substance use services, truancy and dropout prevention and victim services due to requirements in current law. Increased local criminal justice system costs potentially in the tens of millions of dollars annually, primarily due to increased court-related workload and a net increase in the number of people in county jail and under county community supervision.

The Secretary of State’s tracking number for this measure is 1959 and the Attorney General’s tracking number is 23-0017A1.

The proponent of the measure is Thomas W. Hiltachk. He can be reached at (916) 442-7757. The address for the proponent is 455 Capitol Mall, Suite 600, Sacramento, CA 95814.

For more information about how an initiative qualifies for the ballot in California, visit sos.ca.gov/elections/ballot-measures/how-qualify-initiative/.