It is possible to have violent crime charges reduced, and there are many of different ways to do this. You can do it through negotiation. Every felony has kind of a mini-trial half way through, called a Preliminary Hearing. This is similar to a bench trial where there is no jury – just a judge determining if there is probable cause. The evidence is taken and the judge decides if there is sufficient evidence to believe that a felony has been committed. If the charges are wobblers, or if there is a lesser included that could function as a wobbler, then you can make a motion at preliminary hearing for the charge to be reduced to a misdemeanor. That’s one way and we’ve achieved this goal many times throughout our careers as Oakland criminal defense attorneys.
California’s laws on serious violent felonies are a bit complicated, because there is a preclusion against plea-bargaining in some of them. What you have to do is you have to persuade the prosecutor to dismiss and re-file different charges. The theory is that prosecutors cannot overcharge for purposes of getting the defendant to plead to a lesser offense or as charged with a lower sentence – since plea bargaining is not allowed before preliminary hearing.
This was actually put into law because people were angry that serious cases were getting plea bargained down and they sought a tougher disposition on the punishment of crimes. It did also have the effect of requiring prosecutors to be more careful with how they charge cases. They don’t charge the non-bargainable charges unless they really think it’s proven by the evidence they have. Defense attorneys and prosecutors have a professional adversarial relationship, as they should, due to the nature of our system. Undoubtedly, there are irresponsible prosecutors out there, but for the most part we like to hope that they comply with the high ethical standards they are held to.