Proposed initiative authorizes felony sentences for certain thefts under $950; Requires longer sentences for specified property losses

Good news for those who believe the criminal justice system needs to be tougher on criminals.

California Secretary of State Dr. Shirley N. Weber announcedhe proponents of a new initiative were cleared to begin collecting petition signatures Jan. 27.

The initiative “Authorizes prosecutors to file felony or misdemeanor charges for thefts of any amount under $950 — currently chargeable as felonies only in certain circumstances — against any person with two or more prior specified theft convictions. Adds mandatory sentencing enhancement for any felony resulting in significant property loss or damage, ranging from one additional year for losses over $50,000, to four years for losses over $3 million, plus one year for each additional $3 million. Authorizes prosecution for theft in any county where acts in furtherance occurred.

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 low tens 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 certain spending on mental health and substance use services, truancy and dropout prevention and victim services due to requirements in current law. Increased county criminal justice system costs potentially in the low tens of millions of dollars annually, primarily due to increases in county jail and community supervision populations.

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The proponent of the measure, Thomas W. Hiltachk, must collect signatures of 623,212 registered voters (five percent of the total votes cast for governor in the November 2018 general election) in order for the measure to become eligible for the ballot. The proponent has 180 days to circulate petitions for the measure, meaning the signatures must be submitted to county elections officials no later than July 26, 2022. The address for the proponent is 455 Capitol Mall, Suite 600, Sacramento, CA 95814. The proponent can be reached at (916) 442-7757.