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Reduce your felony to a misdemeanor

Being a convicted felon carries a heavy burden in our society. It may be hard to get a job. State licensing boards may refuse to certify you and it may be hard to even rent an apartment of house. You can’t own or possess firearms. But there is hope. Even if you’re a convicted felon, it may be possible to reduce your felony to a misdemeanor.

In the article below, former prosecutors explain the process in California for a felony reduction to a misdemeanor, and what it can do for you…

1. What are the Benefits of Reducing a Felony to a Misdemeanor?

This type of judicial relief offers several benefits. Some of the most common include (but are not limited to):

  • Being able to say honestly that you have never been convicted of a felony (which is important for job, housing, and loan applications),
  • Obtaining or maintaining professional licenses,
  • Regaining the right to serve on a jury, and
  • Restoring your California gun rights.

2. What Makes a Felony Conviction Eligible for Reduction to a Misdemeanor?

California Penal Code 17(b) PC establishes two requirements for reducing a felony conviction to a misdemeanor: (1) the underlying offense must be a wobbler, and (2) probation must have been granted.

What are wobblers?

The first requirement is that the offense must be what we call a wobbler. Under California law, a “wobbler” is an offense that can be charged and punished as either a felony or a misdemeanor. The list of wobblers is too numerous to detail here but includes such common crimes as:

  • Penal Code 245(a)(1) PC California’s “assault with a deadly weapon” (ADW) law,
  • Penal Code 422 PC California’s criminal threats law,
  • Penal Code 273.5 PC California’s spousal battery law,
  • many California sex crimes (including Penal Code 243.4 PC sexual battery and    Penal Code 288 PC lewd acts with a minor), and
  • most California fraud charges.

Only felonies that are classified as wobblers may be reduced to misdemeanors. “Straight” felonies (ones which can only be prosecuted as felonies) are therefore not eligible for a misdemeanor reduction.

The second requirement is that you must have been granted probation in connection with your felony conviction. If the court denied probation (or you violated your probation), and you were sentenced to serve time in the California State Prison, you are not eligible for a reduction (or, unfortunately, an expungement). Serving time in a county jail is okay and does not affect your eligibility.

In order for you to reduce your felony conviction to a misdemeanor, both of these requirements must be satisfied. This means that even if your offense was a wobbler, but you served time in the state prison, you are ineligible for this relief.

3. At What Point Can I Get My Felony Conviction Reduced to a Misdemeanor?

The judge can reduce a “wobbler” felony to a misdemeanor at the conclusion of the preliminary hearing or at the time of felony sentencing in a California case.

If you’ve already been sentenced and are currently serving felony probation, our California expungement lawyers can petition the court to reduce your conviction at the conclusion of your probation. In some instances, we may even be able to help you obtain an early termination of your probation in order to expedite this process. If you’re already completed your probation, we can ask the court to reduce your felony at any time.

4. How Does the Court Decide Whether to Reduce the Felony to a Misdemeanor?

There are a variety of factors that the judge takes into consideration when deciding whether to grant this relief. These factors include:

  • the nature of the offense,
  • the facts of the case,
  • your compliance with your probation terms and conditions,
  • your criminal history, and
  • your personal history.

Sometimes the prosecutor will argue that the conviction should not be reduced, a position which the judge may or may not consider. Other times, if the prosecutor doesn’t object, he/she may simply remain silent on the issue.

5. How is a Misdemeanor Reduction Related to an Expungement?

California expungement law traditionally relieves you of all “penalties and disabilities” associated with your criminal conviction.

These are the benefits of an expungement and generally the ultimate goal when asking the court to terminate your probation or reduce a felony to a misdemeanor. And while it is possible to expunge a felony conviction without first reducing it to a misdemeanor, an “expunged misdemeanor” is better than an “expunged felony” because it preserves certain rights and benefits that can be denied to an ex-felon, the right to possess firearms, for example.

6. Are There any Penalties that Carry Over Once My Felony Has Been Reduced?

Yes, although they are limited. These include (but are not necessarily limited to):

  •     if the offense was a serious felony or violent felony, the conviction will remain a prior “strike” for purposes of California’s Three Strike’s Law,
  • if the offense required you to register as a sex offender pursuant to Penal Code 290 PC, a reduction does not alleviate that requirement,
  • the federal government may still consider the conviction as a felony under its firearms statutes (with respect to misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence, for example), and
  • some state licensing agencies may still consider the conviction a felony (for example, the California State Bar still looks at the conviction as a felony for attorney disciplinary purposes)

Absent the above exceptions, the good news is that a Penal Code 17(b) felony reduction is considered a misdemeanor conviction “for all purposes”. This means that a reduced felony cannot act as a “prior” crime for a future offense that requires a predicate (that is, preexisting) felony conviction.

Please call me if you are considering having a felony conviction reduced to a misdemeanor. I charge reasonable rates and my success records is quite good.

Felony Reduction Benefits in San Jose, CA


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Criminal defense lawyer Kenneth J. Pinto is skilled and experienced in the preparation and argument of post-conviction criminal defense motions before the court.  He works hard for you and is a competent and well versed professional in the courtroom.

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