Reducing A Felony to A Misdemeanor in California
- Penal Code §17(b) -
Reducing A Felony to A Misdemeanor - PC 17(b)
California Penal Code section 17(b) permits for certain felony offenses to be reduced to misdemeanors. In other words, if you are facing a felony or have previously been convicted of a felony, PC 17(b) can reduce the severity of the crime to a misdemeanor. In order to have your charge reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor, you will likely have to file a motion with the court seeking 17(b) relief.
The benefits of reducing a charge from a felony to a misdemeanor are countless. For example, since reducing a charge pursuant to section 17(b) reduces the charge for all purposes, 17(b) relief is particularly beneficial in restoring gun rights in California.
Additionally, those who have had their conviction reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor are legally permitted to say they were NEVER convicted of a felony when applying of housing or employment.
Keep reading to get a better understanding of the benefits and eligibility requirements for reducing a felony to a misdemeanor under PC 17(b). It is always recommended that someone seeking to reduce a felony to a misdemeanor contact a criminal defense lawyer before filing anything with the court.
1. Who is eligible to have their felony reduced to a misdemeanor?
To be eligible to have your conviction reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor under PC 17(b), you must have been convicted of a “wobbler” and placed on probation. You are also automatically ineligible to have the conviction reduced to a misdemeanor if you were sentenced to serve time in prison for the offense.
A “wobbler” is a crime that can either be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony. Some common examples of a “wobbler” offense include:
There are many other sex crimes and crimes involving fraud that are also considered wobbler offenses. It is very important to remember that the first step in seeking to reduce a conviction from a felony to a misdemeanor is determining that the offense is a wobbler. Unfortunately, those convicted of a non-wobbler felony are indelible for relief under section 17(b).
A defendant is ineligible to reduce their conviction from a felony to a misdemeanor if he or she was sentenced to state prison.
In addition to being a wobbler offense, the defendant must have also been placed on probation in order for the offense to be reduced to a misdemeanor. Since a judge is not required to reduce a defendant’s conviction, it is always best when the defendant can demonstrate that he or she successfully completed probation without violating any of the terms of probation. This includes paying all fines and any restitution that may have been ordered paid to the victim.
Lastly, the defendant cannot have been sentenced to serve time in state prison for the offense they are seeking to reduce to a misdemeanor. It should be noted that county jail is different than state prison. Persons who are ordered to serve more than 1 year in custody are usually sentenced to state prison, while persons ordered to serve less than 1 year are sentenced to county jail.
2. How to request that a felony be reduced to a misdemeanor?
As previously mentioned, if the defendant satisfies all of the eligibility requirements, then he or she can petition the court to have their felony conviction reduced to a misdemeanor. To petition the court, the defendant must file a motion with the appropriate court.
Upon filing the motion, a hearing will be scheduled where the defendant is responsible for convincing the judge that the felony should be reduced to a misdemeanor. The judge does not HAVE to grant the defendant’s request. It is the burden of the defendant to demonstrate that relief should be granted.
Ordinarily, the court will consider the crime that was committed, whether the defendant successfully completed probation, the facts and circumstances that led to the conviction, and whether the defendant has any other convictions on their criminal record.
It is not uncommon for a prosecutor to argue against a motion to reduce a charge from a felony to a misdemeanor. The prosecutor is entitled to advanced notice of the hearing, just in case they decide to argue against the granting of the petition.
The court takes many things into consideration when deciding whether to reduce a felony to a misdemeanor.
3. What are the benefits of reducing a felony to a misdemeanor?
A felony conviction can have devastating consequences. A felony conviction can often affect a person’s ability to get a job, find housing, become a citizen, receive social services, among others. A misdemeanor conviction usually doesn’t carry the same stigma as a felony.
A misdemeanor normally doesn’t have the same negative impact on a person’s life. Reducing a felony to a misdemeanor pursuant to PC 17(b) can be beneficial for many reasons.
Firearm Rights: Unlike an expungement, reducing your conviction to a misdemeanor can reinstate a person's gun rights in California. However, it's essential to be aware that even some misdemeanor convictions, such as domestic violence, can still affect gun rights.
Immigration Consequences: For non-U.S. citizens, certain felony convictions can have more severe immigration consequences than misdemeanor convictions. A reduction from a felony to a misdemeanor might positively impact immigration status in some cases.
Reducing a felony to a misdemeanor can reinstate the person's gun rights in California.
Employment Opportunities: Having a misdemeanor on one's record might be viewed more favorably by potential employers than a felony. Many employers conduct background checks, and a misdemeanor may be perceived as a less serious offense.
Licensing and Professional Opportunities: Certain professions and licenses may be more accessible to individuals with misdemeanor convictions compared to those with felonies. Some licenses may be denied or restricted based on felony convictions.
Voting Rights: In California, individuals with misdemeanor convictions retain their right to vote, whereas those with felony convictions lose their voting rights until they complete their sentences, including probation or parole.
It's important to note that the specific benefits can vary based on the nature of the offense, the individual's criminal history, and other factors. Consulting with a criminal defense attorney is crucial to understanding the potential impact and benefits of reducing a felony to a misdemeanor under PC 17(b).
4. Is it really necessary to hire a lawyer to reduce my conviction?
No, it is not necessary for someone to hire a lawyer in order to reduce their felony to a misdemeanor. However, there are many benefits of hiring a lawyer to handle the complicated process.
Attorneys specializing in criminal law have in-depth knowledge of the legal system, including the specific criteria and processes involved in reducing a felony to a misdemeanor. Their expertise allows them to navigate complex legal procedures and provide the best possible representation.
A skilled attorney can assess the details of your case, including the nature of the offense, your criminal history, and other relevant factors. This evaluation helps determine the likelihood of success in seeking a reduction and allows for the development of a strategic legal approach.
There have been countless times where someone has attempted to handle the procedures on their own, just to find out that reducing their conviction didn't really accomplish what they needed.
Talking to a lawyer can further your ultimate goal in cleaning your record.
Every case is unique, and a lawyer can provide personalized advice based on the specific details of your situation. They can help you understand the potential outcomes, risks, and benefits associated with seeking a reduction.
Contact An Orange County Criminal Defense Lawyer
Unlock new opportunities and regain control of your future by reducing your felony conviction to a misdemeanor. At JPLaw, P.C. we help individuals seeking to reduce their felony convictions to misdemeanors in Orange County, Los Angeles County, Riverside County, and San Diego County.
Get help from an experienced criminal defense lawyer who understands the complexities of the legal system and is dedicated to helping you. With personalized attention and a strategic approach, we aim to minimize the impact of past mistakes on your life.
Enjoy the benefits of reduced penalties, enhanced employment prospects, and a chance for a fresh start. Take the first step toward a brighter future – contact JPLaw, P.C. today to schedule your FREE consultation.