Skip to main content

An initiative campaign that would increase charges for fentanyl possession and thefts broke past its signature requirement and will be on the November ballot, the campaign announced April 18.

The Homelessness, Drug Addiction and Theft Reduction Act would turn the misdemeanors for fentanyl possession and thefts under $950 into felony charges—but only if it is the defendant’s third drug or theft conviction. It also allows people who plead guilty to felony drug possession to have their charges dismissed if they complete a treatment program.

The initiative campaign was required to raise 546,651 signatures to qualify for the ballot—5% of total votes cast for the 2022 gubernatorial election. The campaign raised 900,000 signatures. 

“We must prioritize the safety of our communities. This proposed ballot measure does just that, fixing prior legislation that has harmed public safety. I am grateful for the public’s support of signing ballots to qualify this essential bill onto the ballot,” Riverside District Attorney Michael Hestrin said in a press release. “It is time for common sense reform that holds people accountable for their criminal behavior and ensures justice for our community members.”

Assemblymember James Ramos (D-Highland) is also a supporter.

“I am proud to lend my support to this public safety initiative that would make changes to Prop. 47 which would address serious spikes in drug and theft crimes since the pandemic. Local law enforcement and my constituents are saying enough is enough,” he said, via the initiative’s website.

The initiative would partially reverse Proposition 47, which passed in 2014 with 60% of the vote. The proposition reclassified shoplifting, grand theft, receiving stolen property, forgery and fraud as misdemeanors rather than felonies, unless the amount of money stolen or forged is more than $950, or if the defendant has prior convictions for murder, rape, gun crimes or sex offenses. It also reclassified personal use of drugs as misdemeanors. Previously, those crimes could be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor, under the prosecutor’s discretion, according to a 2014 report from California’s Legislative Analyst

Hestrin’s release said that Prop. 47 did make California’s criminal justice system more equitable, but led to unintended consequences such as organized retail theft, the closure of stores in inner cities and difficulty persuading people to seek drug and mental health treatment. 

The text of the initiative focuses on fentanyl, saying it is the most dangerous drug seen in the United States of America. Drug overdoses have killed two to three times the number of people in California than car crashes, it says.

Traffic fatalities were 4,285 in 2021, according to the California Office of Traffic Safety, while deaths by opioid overdose accounted for 7,385 in 2022, according to the California Department of Public Health. Of those, 6,473 overdose deaths are from fentanyl, the CDPH said.

Riverside company CA Construction and Chino Self Self Storage are both listed as supporters of the initiative on the campaign’s website.

Thomas Hiltachk, a Sacramento lawyer from the firm Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk, is the campaign’s chief proponent, according to the Secretary of State. He previously served as legal counsel for the 1994 campaign behind Proposition 184, also known as the Three Strikes Law. He also served as the legal counsel in the 2003 recall campaign against Gov. Gray Davis—and then as legal counselor for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Read the full text of the measure here.


Topics to follow



assignment_turned_in Registrations


Subscribe now for free

Follow Our Courts will never charge for access to our content, and we will not sell your information.

Password must be at least 7 characters long.
Password must be at least 7 characters long.
Please login to view this page.
Please login to view this page.
Please login to view this page.