Our client had a rough couple years while in his mid-thirties in 1993-1995 due to a cocaine addiction that took over his life. For some people in this situation, although it may seem counterintuitive, prison can help.
Our client had been arrested in downtown Los Angeles, Indio and now, in this case, Long Beach. In the Los Angeles case, he resolved the case with PC 1000, a diversion program wherein he would earn a dismissal after attending Narcotics Anonymous classes and staying out of trouble for a year.
However, no sooner had he started this program than he was arrested again for possession of cocaine in Indio. This arrest caused the judge in Los Angeles to revoke PC 1000 diversion and enter a felony conviction for violation of Health and Safety Code § 11350(a), possession of a controlled substance. He was then placed on thirty-six months of formal probation.
In the Indio case, in Riverside County, the prosecutors were not so nice as in Los Angeles and our client resolved the case with 364 days in Riverside County jail, but otherwise it was three years of formal probation. He had been convicted of his second felony, also for a violation of Health & Safety Code § 11350.
Once out from jail, our client found himself with cocaine again and in the Long Beach jail. The Los Angeles District Attorney’s Office had only one offer: sixteen months in state prison. As this took place well before AB 109 permitted certain “state prison” sentences to be served in county jail, our client faced either a trial, wherein the judge could sentence him to two years or even three years in state prison. Our client opted for the sixteen-month state prison term and served approximately seven months before being released.
Our client is candid that state prison straightened him out. He realized what he needed to do and that was stay away from drugs, which he successfully did and continues to do to the present.
However, while he changed for the better, his felony record casts a shadow on his life. He had excelled at work, becoming the facilities maintenance engineer and information technology officer for a major agricultural company. He had married and had bought a home.
Yet at age 60, he had a few ambitions remaining. He had become a licensed general contractor despite his felony record and dreamed of becoming an approved general contractor for Los Angeles County and the State of California. However, his felony record stood in his way.
The client called many attorneys, asking if he could have his felony convictions reclassified as misdemeanors now that a violation of Health & Safety Code § 11350(a) is a misdemeanor unless one is a registered sex offender or if one has a conviction for a “Super Strike” offense like murder, attempted murder, solicitation to commit murder, train wrecking, assault with an automatic weapon on a police officer or firefighter, or any offense that involves a sentence of life in prison or death. This was Proposition 47.
The client also wanted his firearm rights back. Proposition 47, if used to reduce a felony to a misdemeanor, excludes restoration of one’s Second Amendment rights (under Penal Code 1170.18(k)). The only way to have the reduction and get one’s firearm rights back was through a motion under Penal Code § 17(b)(3).
The client was told by five or six attorneys that he might be able to have the first two felonies reduced under 17(b)(3), but the one from Long Beach, since it involved a prison sentence, would be denied.
The client then called Greg Hill, who said that yes, conventional wisdom was that if one served time in prison, one cannot have a felony reduced to a misdemeanor. However, there is no law that explicitly states this and there are reported cases wherein this took place. Greg knew this because he read the Daily Appellate Report daily for the last twenty years (and wrote over 1400 articles about various topics in such decisions).
The client hired Greg Hill to handle all three motions to reduce a felony to a misdemeanor. All three were granted, including the one in Long Beach wherein our client was sentenced to state prison and served time in state prison.
The client was overjoyed, remarking to Greg after that he was told by five or six attorneys that what we did was impossible. Our client got the last laugh and now is free to pursue becoming an approved contractor with Los Angeles County and the State of California.
For more information about Penal Code § 17(b)(3) issues, please click on the following articles: