A proposal by Governor Schwarzenegger to downgrade various crimes from felony to misdemeanor status is drawing heavy scrutiny. The proposal would reclassify 73 property and drug crimes, including the brunt of insurance-related offenses in California.

One goal is to lessen the likelihood of prosecutions leading to long sentences that would add to the state prison population, in turn reducing operational expenses. But critics charge that the associated “costs” would be too high, as downgrading offenses would cripple fraud-fighting efforts and be detrimental to public safety.

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