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Is It Possible to Get a Felony Reduced to a Misdemeanor in California?

You’re sitting in a courtroom, palms sweating, heart racing. You’ve just been charged with a felony, and you’re thinking about the consequences – the stigma, the limitations, the way your life could change forever. But then, a flicker of hope: what if you could get that felony reduced to a misdemeanor?

It might sound like a long shot, but here’s the thing – in California, it’s not just a pipe dream. With the right approach and a solid understanding of the legal system, you might be able to make it a reality.

In this blog post, we’ll break down the process of getting a felony reduced to a misdemeanor in California. We’ll cover the factors that judges consider, the strategies that experienced attorneys use, and the potential benefits of a successful reduction.

Now, we’re not saying it’s going to be a cakewalk. The criminal justice system can be intimidating. But with the right knowledge and defense attorney on your side, you may be able to turn that felony into a misdemeanor and get a second chance at building the life you want.

Here’s what you need to know.

Felonies, Misdemeanors, and “Wobbler” Charges in California

In California, crimes are generally divided into three categories:

  1. Felonies: These are the most serious offenses, punishable by more than a minimum of 16 months in state prison and/or substantial fines. Examples include murder, rape, and grand theft.
  2. Misdemeanors: These are less serious crimes, punishable by up to a year in county jail and/or smaller fines. Examples include petty theft, simple assault, and DUI (in most cases).
  3. Infractions: These are minor violations that typically result in a fine, such as traffic tickets or littering.

But then there are “wobblers.” A wobbler is a crime that can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances of the case and the defendant’s criminal history. It’s kind of like a wild card – the prosecutor gets to decide how to play it.

Some common examples of wobbler offenses in California include:

So why does this matter? Well, if you’re charged with a felony wobbler, you may have the opportunity to get it reduced to a misdemeanor. This can significantly reduce the potential penalties and long-term consequences of a conviction.

For example, during an argument, a husband grabs his wife’s arm, causing her to fall and sustain minor bruising. He is initially charged with felony domestic violence offense of corporal injury to a spouse. However, his criminal defense lawyer negotiates with the prosecutor, highlighting his lack of criminal history and the minor nature of the alleged victim’s injuries. As a result, the prosecutor agrees to charge a misdemeanor violation of Penal Code 273.5 instead of the felony. From there a defense attorney can negotiate a variety of outcomes such as a less severe offense like PC243(e)(1) domestic battery, PC 242 (simple battery), or even PC 415 (disturbing the peace).

5 Ways to Get a Felony Reduced to a Misdemeanor

If you’re facing a felony charge in California, you may be wondering if there’s any way to get it reduced to a misdemeanor. The good news is that there are several possible paths to a felony reduction, depending on the specifics of your case.

Here are five ways your criminal defense lawyer may be able to help:

1. Accept a Plea Bargain to a Lesser Offense

One of the most common ways to get a felony reduced to a misdemeanor is through plea bargaining. Your lawyer can negotiate with the prosecutor to reduce your felony charge to a misdemeanor in exchange for a guilty plea.

This can be an effective way to achieve a reduction, but it’s important to understand the terms of the plea deal and the potential consequences before accepting.

2. Complete a Pretrial Diversion Program

In some cases, you may be eligible for a pretrial diversion program. These programs allow you to complete certain requirements, such as substance abuse treatment, community service, and restitution, in exchange for having your charges reduced or dismissed. Collaborative courts such as Early Intervention Court, Mentorship Court, Girls Court, and the like are great resources for alternative sentencing but vary by county.

Your lawyer can help you determine if you qualify for a pretrial diversion program and guide you through the process.

3. Complete Felony Probation

If you’re convicted of a felony and sentenced to probation, successfully completing the terms of your probation can sometimes lead to a reduction of your charge to a misdemeanor.

Again, this is known as a “wobbler” offense. Your lawyer can petition the court for a reduction once you’ve completed probation and demonstrated various factors like an appreciation for the offense.

4. Show That Factual Circumstances Supporting Felony Charges Are Not Present

In some cases, your lawyer may be able to argue that the facts of your case do not support a felony charge. For example, if you’re charged with felony drug possession, but the amount of drugs involved is relatively small, your lawyer might argue that the charge should be reduced to a misdemeanor. This strategy requires a thorough investigation of the evidence and a strong legal argument.

At The Nieves Law Firm, we have a team of experienced attorneys who will leave no stone unturned in examining the evidence and identifying factors that could support reducing your charges. As one of the largest criminal defense firms in the Bay Area, we’re equipped with the resources to mount a robust defense on your behalf.

5. Seek Relief Under Proposition 47

Proposition 47, also known as the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act, was a ballot measure passed in California in 2014. It reduced certain non-violent felonies, such as drug possession and petty theft, to misdemeanors.

If you were convicted of an eligible felony before the passage of Prop 47, your lawyer can help you petition the court to have your conviction reclassified as a misdemeanor. This can help you avoid some of the long-term consequences of a felony conviction.

Remember, every case is different, and not all felony charges can be reduced. However, by working with a skilled criminal defense lawyer, you can explore all of your options and work towards the best possible outcome for your situation.

Long-Term Benefits of Reducing a Felony Charge

You might be thinking, “What’s the big deal about getting my felony charge reduced to a misdemeanor? At the end of the day, it’s still a conviction on my record, right?” Well, not exactly.

While it’s true that a misdemeanor conviction isn’t a walk in the park, it carries significantly fewer long-term consequences than a felony.

Here are a few benefits of getting a felony reduced to a misdemeanor:

  1. Employment opportunities: Many employers are hesitant to hire candidates with felony convictions, particularly where the conduct has a nexus to the job duties. With a misdemeanor, you may have a better chance of passing background checks and landing a job.
  2. Professional licenses: Felony convictions can disqualify you from obtaining certain professional licenses, such as those required for teachers, doctors, and lawyers. A misdemeanor may not have the same automatic disqualification effect.
  3. Housing options: Landlords often run criminal background checks on potential tenants, and a felony conviction can make it difficult to find housing. With a misdemeanor, you may have more options and face less discrimination.
  4. Voting rights: In California, a felony conviction can lead to the loss of your right to vote while you are incarcerated in state or federal prison. With a misdemeanor, you retain your voting rights.
  5. Gun ownership: Federal law prohibits individuals with felony convictions from owning firearms. With a misdemeanor, you may still face some restrictions, but you’re less likely to lose your gun rights entirely.
  6. Social stigma: There’s no denying that a criminal record carries a social stigma, but a misdemeanor is generally viewed as less serious than a felony. This can impact your personal relationships and overall reputation in the community.
  7. Future enhancements: Prosecutors hit repeat offenders harder. That means if you are charged with a felony now, any future charge you experience may be escalated as a result.

While the specific benefits of reducing a felony to a misdemeanor depend on the details of your case and your individual circumstances, it’s clear that a misdemeanor conviction generally carries less severe long-term consequences than a felony. That’s why it’s crucial to work with a skilled criminal defense attorney who can help you explore all possible avenues for getting your charges reduced.

Take action now. If you or a loved one now face felony charges in California, our attorneys can make all the difference. Here at The Nieves Law Firm, we work closely with our clients to make sure they understand their charges and know what options they can pursue.

There’s no reason to go through this experience alone. Reach out today for a consultation and see if your felony can be reduced to a misdemeanor.

Author Bio

Grace Goodman is a lawyer at The Nieves Law Firm, having joined the firm as an attorney in January 2021. Grace has been immersed in the world of law since she was a child, becoming the family’s fourth generation lawyer when she passed the bar in 2021. Grace handles a variety of cases at the firm, representing those facing criminal charges, pursuing post-conviction relief, and filing or contesting restraining orders.

Grace obtained her J.D. from U.C. Hastings College of Law and is a member of California State Bar.  With her immense knowledge of the justice system, Grace feverishly studies the criminal justice system in her spare time to stay up to date on changes within the legal system.

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