The Difference Between Misdemeanors and Felonies
California has two main classes of criminal offenses: misdemeanors and felonies. Infractions are also technically criminal offenses, but, in practice, are handled like traffic tickets. It goes without saying; felony crimes are the most serious. They typically carry a death or prison sentence, while misdemeanor crimes are punishable by only up to one year in jail. Felony convictions can also prevent you from getting certain jobs, getting certain types of public assistance or financial aid, volunteering in certain places, or even holding certain professional licenses. You can also lose your gun rights and are prohibited from serving on a jury. On top of all that, felonies carry with them a much more significant social stigma than misdemeanor convictions do. And if you are convicted of a felony and are sentenced to prison, you will not be eligible to have that conviction expunged later on. Not surprisingly, those facing felony convictions have a lot more at stake than those facing misdemeanors. But not everyone being charged with a felony will be convicted of a felony. In fact, some people can get their felony charges reduced to misdemeanors before the case goes to trial.
Reducing a charge from a felony to a misdemeanor can save you from a harsh sentence, but it can be difficult to do on your own. Having an experienced California criminal defense attorney assist you with your case is a good way to increase your chances of getting a charged reduced, but it's important to have a basic understanding of what it takes to have a charge reduced anyway. Here are a few things you should know before you start the process:
First of all, getting a felony charge reduced to a misdemeanor before conviction usually involves some sort of a plea bargain. A plea bargain is a negotiated deal between the prosecution and the defendant. The judge needs to approve of the plea bargain as well. Criminal trials cost the court time and resources. In some cases, it is in the court's best interests to accept a plea bargain to save it the costs. A defendant may be offered a plea bargain if he or she agrees to plead guilty to a lesser crime. This lets everyone avoid trial, and the court is able to sentence the defendant. The defendant gives up the risk of being found not guilty at trial, but also ensures they won't face a felony sentence. It can be difficult to negotiate a plea bargain on your own, so make sure you seek legal counsel before doing so.
Second, there are no guarantees. Getting a felony charge reduced to a misdemeanor is never a sure thing. When a decision is left up to the judge to make, it is hard to know what your real chances are. Keep in mind you are asking the court to go easy on your or give you a second change. Hiring an attorney to handle your case for you can increase your chances that the judge will decide in your favor. Some charges are more commonly reduced than others, and an attorney can advise you on what your options are.
Third, don't lose hope if you've already been convicted of a felony. If you have already been convicted of a wobbler felony, you may be able to have it reduced to a misdemeanor post-conviction. Wobbler crimes are crimes that can be charged as either misdemeanors or felonies in California. If you've already served your sentence, the benefit will be having a lesser charge on your criminal record. You will also have some rights restored. You can also be resentenced when getting a felony conviction reduced to a misdemeanor. This could shorten your sentence or release you from prison in some cases. Speak with an attorney about how to do this.
Consult with an experienced California criminal defense attorney if you want to try to get a felony charged reduced to a misdemeanor. An attorney can evaluate your case and advise you on your chances of getting your charges reduced. Then, an attorney can assist you with your case, helping ensure you have the best possible chance at success. Getting a felony reduced to a misdemeanor can be difficult, but in most cases it is well worth the effort.
Do you have questions about reducing a criminal charge? California attorney Christopher Martens knows California criminal defense and will work hard to give you the best chance at having a charge reduced. With over ten years of criminal defense experience, Mr. Martens has handled thousands of cases and has successfully negotiated plea bargains for countless clients. Attorney Christopher Martens has the skills and knowledge needed to defend your rights. Serving the Visalia and Fresno areas, The Law Offices of Christopher Martens can provide expert criminal defense counsel. Call our office at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.