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Criminal sentencing measure qualifies for ballot

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- An initiative seeking to lower the criminal penalties for certain theft and drug crimes has qualified for the November ballot in California.

Secretary of State Debra Bowen said Thursday that supporters collected the more than 500,000 signatures they needed.

The measure would make petty theft, receiving stolen property, and forging or writing bad checks for $950 or less misdemeanors instead of felonies.

The proposal backed by San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon also would make certain drug possession offenses misdemeanors.

The offenses could still be prosecuted as felonies, if the suspect is a registered sex offender or has previous convictions for rape, murder or child molestation.

People already serving felony sentences would be resentenced, if the measure passes.

State officials estimate the measure could save hundreds of millions of dollars in jail and prison costs.

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