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Name: People v. Johnston
Case #: C080099
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 05/06/2016
Subsequent History: Review granted 7/13/2016: S235041
Summary

Proposition 47 does not apply to the offense of unlawfully taking a vehicle (Veh. Code, § 10851). Johnston filed a Proposition 47 petition to reduce a number of felony drug and theft convictions to misdemeanors. The court reduced his drug possession conviction, but found that a number of other convictions, including one for unlawfully taking a vehicle, were ineligible. Johnston appealed the denial of relief for his unlawful taking a vehicle conviction. Held: Affirmed. Proposition 47 prospectively reduced a number of felony drug and theft offenses to misdemeanors and provides a mechanism for individuals to have old felony convictions for those same offenses retrospectively reduced to misdemeanors. (See Pen. Code, § 1170.18.) It does not, however, apply to the offense of unlawfully taking a vehicle. Proposition 47 specifically lists a number of drug and theft offenses that it applies to, including receiving stolen property, commercial burglary, and drug possession, but it does not list section 10851. When a statute lists several related items but not others, there is a strong inference that the omission of the others was intentional. Furthermore, there is no evidence that the drafters intended Proposition 47 to apply to unlawful taking convictions because none of the ballot materials refer to that offense as being affected. Although Proposition 47 added section 490.2, which provides that theft of property worth $950 or less is a misdemeanor, a violation of section 10851 does not necessarily require a theft, as taking or driving a vehicle without an intent to steal is also proscribed. Although a grand theft conviction under section 487 for stealing a vehicle worth $950 or less is eligible for Proposition 47 relief, equal protection does not require that an unlawful taking conviction be treated similarly. The trial court properly denied relief.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/C080099.PDF