Who’s Eligible?

The court’s authority to reduce a felony to a misdemeanor comes from Penal Code section 17(b).  If a person has been convicted of a felony that is a “wobbler” (a legalese term for a crime that could be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony), and that person was granted probation for the offense, the person may be eligible to have that felony reduced to a misdemeanor.  If you’re still on probation, you won’t be eligible until your probation has terminated.  A person who meets certain criteria may petition the court at the same time s/he requests a reduction to terminate his or her probation early and successfully (see http://www.530attorneys.com/get-off-probation/ for more info on Early Termination of Probation).

So what does a court look for when deciding to reduce a felony to a misdemeanor?  There are several considerations for a court when deciding whether to grant a reduction.

First, the court will look at the person’s criminal history.  Obviously the more convictions and the more serious the criminal history, the less likely the judge is going to want to grant that person this relief.  The person’s danger to society is also a consideration.  Judges don’t want to let someone off the hook, or allow someone to have his or her record reflect that the person is a more minor offender just to have the person go commit more (serious) crimes.  This reflects poorly on the court.

Judges must also look at the facts of the person’s particular case.  Egregious facts make for a more difficult reduction.  The court will also consider the person’s appreciation and attitude toward the offense.  So, for example, if the person at trial has a demeanor of disrespect, or mocks witnesses, or shows no remorse during sentencing, that can be a factor when deciding whether to grant the motion.

Also, what a person has done since committing the felony can be considered.  A law abiding, “reformed” individual will fare better than someone who continues to violate the law.  One more consideration is how the person performed while on probation.  If the person took care of business on probation, the person is more likely to get a reduction granted.  People who violate probation, don’t do court ordered treatment, don’t pay fines and fees on time, are less likely to get a felony reduction granted.

Is it Worth it?

It’s axiomatic that having a felony on one’s criminal record is worse than a misdemeanor.  Probably the worst consequence of having a felony record is the limitation it can have on employment opportunities.  Many employers simply will not consider a felon for employment.  There is a stigma attached to felons that they may have bad moral character, make bad decisions, are untrustworthy, and consequently won’t be good employees.  Because of this, employers often deny perfectly good candidates employment.  A reduction of a felony to a misdemeanor may be the ticket to a better job and more opportunities.

If a judge is inclined to grant a reduction of the person’s felony, it’s also possible that the judge would be willing to dismiss the conviction pursuant to Penal Code section 1203.4 (expungement- see below).  A California “expungement” can also help clean up a person’s record.  If the “expungement” is granted, many employers are statutorily prohibited from using the conviction (or really the dismissed action), against the person in the hiring process (See Labor Code section 432.7).

What Else Can You Do to Clean Up Your Record?

As stated above, an expungement, or dismissal pursuant to Penal Code section 1203.4 can also assist in cleaning up a person’s record.  It won’t seal or destroy the record, but it will amend the record to reflect that the charges were dismissed.  For most private employers and some public employers, this relief means they cannot consider your prior conviction in the hiring process.

If you’re not eligible for a reduction of your felony to a misdemeanor or an expungement, you may be eligible for a Certificate of Rehabilitation and a Governor’s Pardon.  See http://www.530attorneys.com/certificate-rehabilitation-pardon-info/ for more information on this.

Chico Criminal Defense Lawyer Matthew Luzaich provides free consultations to discuss your eligibility for a reduction of your felony to a misdemeanor and an expungement.  Call today to discuss the facts of your case with him.  A reduction could mean the difference between being unemployed, or having a sustaining career. (530) 809-1752


  • The information contained in this article is for information purposes only and is not legal advice.  Every case is different, and you should not rely on this information for your unique case.  This is not a substitute for discussing your case with a criminal defense lawyer.  The information contained in this article may not be up to date at the time you read it.
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