Reducing Felonies to Misdemeanors
Defendants who are convicted of Los Angeles felony offenses may face several unexpected consequences as the result of the conviction. People who are convicted of felonies can face difficulty in finding jobs or suitable housing. These individuals may be unable to qualify for certain State professional licenses and those convicted of a felony will lose their right to own or possess a firearm and will lose the right to vote. However, individuals convicted of certain felony offenses may be able to petition the court to reduce the conviction to a misdemeanor and then to expunge the conviction. This can be critical for people who are trying to move on with their lives after being convicted of a felony.
Under California Penal Code Section 17(b) PC, a person who has been convicted of a felony can have the charge reduced to a misdemeanor when the underlying offense is what is considered a “wobbler” crime that could have been charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. Additionally, the defendant must have been granted probation. There are many criminal offenses that are considered “wobblers” under the law, including burglary under California Penal Code Section 459 PC, grand theft under California Penal Code Section 487 PC, criminal threats pursuant to California Penal Code Section 422 PC and spousal battery under California Penal Code Section 273.5 PC. “Straight felonies” which can only be prosecuted as felonies are not eligible for misdemeanor reduction.
Under California Penal Code Section 17(b) PC, a judge can reduce a felony to a misdemeanor after a defendant’s preliminary hearing. The defendant can also request that the judge reduce the charge to a misdemeanor at the time of sentencing following a “guilty” verdict or a plea or “guilty” or “no contest.” If the defendant is currently on probation for a “wobbler” felony, the defendant can petition the court to terminate probation early and also request that the charge be reduced to a misdemeanor. In these cases, the defendant should have completed all the terms of probation, including payment of fines and restitution, and should have committed no new criminal offenses.
In addition, the defendant must have been granted probation to qualify for a misdemeanor reduction. If the defendant was sentenced to serve time in prison, he or she would not be eligible for a reduction. However, if the defendant was sentenced to serve time in county jail as a condition of probation, he or she would be eligible for misdemeanor reduction on a “wobbler” felony.
In deciding whether or not to grant the defendant’s request to reduce a felony to a misdemeanor, the judge will consider a variety of factors. These can include the underlying facts of the offense, the defendant’s performance on probation, the defendant’s criminal history and any circumstances that would support the misdemeanor reduction, such as a potential job offer or an upcoming background check.
If the judge agrees to reduce the felony conviction to a misdemeanor, the defendant could then file an expungement motion under California Penal Code Section 1203.4 PC. While felony convictions can be expunged, it is critical that the conviction first be reduced to a misdemeanor before the expungement. This would allow defendant to have certain rights restored, including the right to own or possess firearms.
Even if the felony conviction is reduced to a misdemeanor, there are certain penalties that will continue to affect the defendant. If the underlying offense was a “strike” offense, the “strike” will remain and would affect future offenses that the defendant may commit. In addition, if the defendant is required to register as a sex offender under California Penal Code Section 290 PC, this requirement would continue even if the charge is reduced to a misdemeanor.
If you have been charged or convicted of a felony and are interested in having the charge reduced to a misdemeanor, it is crucial that you speak with a Los Angeles Criminal Defense Attorney as soon as possible. Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Michael Kraut is a former Deputy District Attorney with over 14 years of prosecutorial experience who is who highly regarded by judges and prosecutors for his knowledge of the law and dedication to his clients.
For more information about reducing felony convictions to misdemeanors in Los Angeles, and to schedule your free consultation, contact Los Angeles Criminal Defense Lawyer Michael Kraut at the Kraut Law Group located at 6255 Sunset Boulevard, Suite 1520, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Mr. Kraut can be reached 24/7 at 888-334-6344 or 323-464-6453.