The California criminal justice categorizes crimes as infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies. Felonies are the most serious crimes with severe punishment. On the other hand, misdemeanors are less serious, while infractions are petty crimes. Most infractions in California are traffic-related and are punishable by a maximum fine of $250.
In California, there are certain misdemeanor offenses called “wobblers” that can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor, at the discretion of the DA or prosecutor. Particularly, there’s a huge difference between a felony conviction and a misdemeanor conviction. A felony conviction will definitely impact your life, e.g., when looking for a job or even when seeking child custody rights. Thus the importance of contacting an experienced Orange County criminal defense lawyer to help you get a felony charge reduced to a misdemeanor.
What’s The Difference Between a Felony Vs. Misdemeanor in California?
The main difference between a felony and a misdemeanor is that felonies tend to be more serious crimes with an element of violence attached to them. The other difference is the penalties an accused person may receive once convicted.
The standard punishment for a misdemeanor in California may include up to 364 days in county jail and/ fines of up to $1,000 or more. Some of the offenses that may be misdemeanors include drug possession, shoplifting, DUI without injury, and domestic battery. For a felony, you’ll likely be sentenced to a high-security prison for more than a year. A felony may also end up with a life imprisonment punishment if the defendant satisfies the “Three Strikes Law” in California. Fines of up to $10,000 may also be applied to the defendant.
When Is a Misdemeanor Upgraded to a Felony?
A misdemeanor in California can easily turn to a felony charge. Without the help of a skilled Orange County felony lawyer, your offense may remain to be a felony even when there were chances for a downgrade. Some of the aggravating factors that may upgrade a misdemeanor to a felony include:
- Damage or injury done to a property of a person
- Who the victim involved was (e.g., a pregnant woman, police officer, child, elderly person)
- Presence of aggravating factors (existence of a weapon involved, impersonation, defrauding a government official, a poor criminal history)
A lack of proof to defend a reduction of a felony charge means the prosecution will carry on with the original felony charge. This occurs mainly among defendants without skilled defense attorneys to advise and defend them. The court will also consider the reason for the request, the facts of the case, and whether you completed the terms of probation.
Misdemeanor Crimes That Can Be Elevated to Felonies
There’s a long list of offenses that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony. They are commonly known as “wobblers.”
Some examples of misdemeanors that are wobblers include:
- Child endangerment
- Domestic violence
- Assault with a deadly weapon
- Deadly threats
- Many sex crimes
- Grand theft
- DUI with injury
- Child abuse
- Second-degree burglary
Each of these crimes would be judged on how serious it was and whether it was sex-related. Each of them has its own penalty found in the sentencing guideline. All these are penal code offenses that, if charged as a felony, can be reduced to a misdemeanor with the help of an Orange County felony lawyer.
How Can I Downgrade a Felony to A Misdemeanor?
The first thing to look at is whether the offense is a wobbler offense and does qualify for a reduction. A judge can downgrade a felony to a misdemeanor after the preliminary hearing.
Some of the ways to reduce a felony may include pursuing a plea bargain, finding errors in the charges, or demonstrating good behavior if probation was sentenced.
An experienced Orange County felony attorney can help you through the plea bargain process with the prosecution. Your lawyer may negotiate for lessened charges in exchange for accepting accountability for some charges.
Errors in Charges
Mistakes made by the arresting officer or during investigations could label an offense a felony, while in fact, it is a misdemeanor. An experienced felony lawyer in Laguna Hills, CA, will conduct an investigation to determine the facts of the crime. For instance, an aggravated assault, which is labeled as a felony, may not be a felony if the injury inflicted on the victim does not meet the threshold for a felony.
What California Crimes Cannot Be Downgraded from Felonies to Misdemeanors?
Crimes such as terrorism, murder or rape would never be a misdemeanor and thus cannot be reduced. These are straight felonies in California that must be prosecuted and sentenced as felonies. Similarly, a felony that ends in conviction to state prison is ineligible to be downgraded to a misdemeanor under California Penal Code 17(b).
What If I’m Charged with A Felony but Not Convicted?
If an experienced criminal defense attorney near you succeeds in reducing a felony charge to a misdemeanor, you will definitely be delighted. It is such a huge deal never to be convicted of a felony. You don’t have any problems finding a job, owning a gun, renting a house, traveling around, or in your future educational goals.
Aggressive Criminal Defense Professionals in Your Team
A felony conviction can impact your life in ways you’d never imagine. The best way to determine your chances of getting your felony charges reduced is to talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney in Southern California.
Talk to a legal aid today whether you’ve been charged or you’re currently serving felony probation. At The SoCal Law Network, we have the skills and experience to represent you against any criminal charges in Orange County. Book a FREE case evaluation, and let us analyze your case to determine your options.