Why Get Your Felony Reduced?
A felony conviction has long lasting and far reaching consequences. The appearance of a felony on your criminal record can create barriers to admission to schools, hiring by employers, or things such as preventing you from becoming a legal gun owner. However, a felony conviction doesn’t have to follow you forever. In some instances a felony conviction can be reduced to a misdemeanor. The benefits of such a reduction include the ability to legally answer “no” to questions regarding felony convictions, the right to sit on a jury is restored, the right to vote is restored, and the lifetime ban on gun ownership is lifted (although some misdemeanor convictions will still carry a 10 year ownership restriction).
Am I Eligible?
Not all felony convictions are eligible for this reduction. In order for the conviction to be eligible it must meet three criteria outlined in Penal Code (PC) 17(b):
- The felony conviction must be for a “wobbler” offense. A wobbler is any offense that can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor and is at the discretion of the district attorney and the judge in the case.
- At sentencing you must have received probation and not have been sent to state prison. Note: if you served any time in state prison you are not eligible to reduce your felony. However, remember that county jail is not state prison and is not disqualifying.
- If you were convicted of multiple felonies, all felonies in the same case must qualify for reduction or none of them does.
What is the Process to Get my Felony Reduced?
Once you and your attorney determine that you are eligible, your attorney will prepare a petition to the court. When the judge receives your petition they will take several factors under consideration in deciding whether to grant the reduction. The judge will likely look for the following:
- The seriousness and nature of the original offense that led to the felony conviction;
- The petitioner’s overall compliance with the terms and conditions of their probation;
- Petitioner’s criminal history (is this one of many convictions or a first offense); and
- Petitioner’s personal story (has the person changed, are they working, in school, etc.).
In addition to filing to reduce your felony to a misdemeanor, you can also file a motion to expunge the felony conviction at the same time. That means that if the reduction is granted the judge can immediately expunge the conviction that was just reduced. This two step process is the most effective way to remove a felony conviction from your record so that you aren’t denied entry into schools or professional associations and aren’t passed over for jobs.
An experienced attorney can maximize your chances of having your motions for reduction and expungement granted by knowing the most important things to highlight about you and your case for the judge that will ultimately make the decision. Interested in finding out if you qualify to have your felony conviction reduced? Give us a call with any questions that you may have about the process or for a free consultation.