A Lesser Offense
Most crimes in California are charged as either misdemeanors or felonies. Between the two, misdemeanors are the less serious of crimes. Misdemeanors are punishable by up to 364 days in a county jail. Felonies are the most serious crimes and are punishable by a prison or death sentence. Felonies can also take away your voting rights, your gun rights, your right to serve on a jury, render you permanently ineligible to hold certain public positions or serve in public roles, and can hurt your chances of getting jobs, public assistance, or housing. Misdemeanors will show up on your criminal record, but many do not carry with them all these harsh repercussions. That being said, felonies are more serious than misdemeanors and for good reason. Serious crimes equate to a serious charge and thus a serious sentence. Minor crimes such as misdemeanors come with a limited jail sentence and are considered less serious. Because the difference between these two charges is so great, you may be asking how you can get a felony charge reduced to a misdemeanor. Doing so is possible, but only under certain circumstances and you may need legal assistance to do it.
California has some crimes that are considered wobbler crimes. These specific crimes can be charged as either misdemeanors or felonies. The court will look at many factors in the case to determine whether the crime should be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. Common reasons for a wobbler crime to be charged as a felony are a defendant's history of past offenses, the seriousness of the offense, and whether anyone was hurt as a result of the crime. These are sometimes called aggravating factors and often result in a wobbler crime being charged as a felony.
If your crime was a wobbler crime you may be eligible to have your felony charge reduced to a misdemeanor charge. Typically, this can be achieved by having a skilled attorney negotiate with the judge and the district attorney to obtain a plea bargain for you. A plea bargain allows you to plead guilty to a lesser offense. If your felony is a wobbler, the lesser offense may be a misdemeanor. The judge will consider several factors when deciding on a plea bargain, and an attorney can help your chances of these factors falling in your favor. Ask an attorney if you have any questions about your case and your chances of having a felony charge reduced to a misdemeanor. If your felony is not a wobbler crime, it typically can't be reduced. You may still be able to obtain a plea bargain, but “straight” felonies are generally more serious crimes the judge will not go easy on you for.
Facing criminal felony charges in California is scary. A lot is on the line. And, if your crime is a wobbler, being charged with a misdemeanor rather than a felony can make a world of difference. The knowledge and know-how of an experienced California criminal defense attorney are invaluable resources when trying to reduce a misdemeanor to a felony. Ideally, you would consult with an attorney right away if you've been arrested for a crime. If you involve an attorney early enough, he or she may be able to approach the district attorney and discuss the case possibilities. In some cases, a skilled attorney can convince the DA to file the charge as a misdemeanor. If felony charges have already been filed, an attorney can help you negotiate a plea bargain so you can plead guilty to a misdemeanor crime instead of a felony. If you have already been convicted of a felony offense for a wobbler crime, you may be able to get your conviction reduced through the expungement process. You can petition to have the felony reduced to a misdemeanor and in some cases even have the misdemeanor conviction dismissed. This will restore some of your rights but not all.
Do you have questions about reducing a felony charge? California attorney Christopher Martens knows California criminal defense and will work tirelessly to get you a reduced charge. With over ten years of criminal defense experience, Mr. Martens has handled thousands of cases and has taken over 50 to trial. 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.