Even though law enforcement and the criminal justice system would have
you believe that every sort of criminal violation is the same in the way
that it negatively impacts your future, this is not necessarily the truth.
Most crimes are considered either a misdemeanor or a felony upon charging
and conviction, and a felony is much worse.
By definition, a felony is a crime that can be punished by a year or more
of prison time or multiple years of felony probation through the Department
of Corrections. Keep in mind, this does not even mention the high fines
usually tacked onto each sentence. A misdemeanor, however, may only involve
jail time up to one year for a first degree misdemeanor (only up to 60-days
for a second degree misdemeanor), and include probation for up to one
year for a first degree misdemeanor (only up to six months if a second
degree misdemeanor), monitored by a local County Probation office, with
comparatively-small fines, perhaps community service, etc. Although no
one wants a mark on their criminal record, if you can choose between the
two, always go for a misdemeanor, as it will cost you less time and money
in the long run, and most likely will not bar you from employment and
educational opportunities. Likewise, avoiding a felony protects your right
to vote, right to bear arms in Florida, etc. Which raises the question: can you choose?
How Can a Felony Be Reduced to a Misdemeanor?
Before a felony can be reduced to a misdemeanor, it needs to first be a
violation considered a crime which allows “wiggle room,” as
in, one that is eligible for a misdemeanor charge in the first place.
For example, a Federal crime as serious as terrorism will never be a misdemeanor
and therefore cannot be reduced. Many sex crimes or particularly violent
crimes are also labeled solely as felonies, whether in Federal or State Court.
If the felony could be reduced to a misdemeanor, here are the three main
ways it can be done:
Plea bargain: With the help of a professional Criminal Defense Attorney, you may be able
to seek a plea agreement that reduces the severity of your charges. In
short, you can negotiate with the prosecution so that you will accept
accountability for some of your charges only if they are lessened to misdemeanors.
The prosecution may consider your bargain, as it saves them time and ensures
a “victory” on their side. After all, they want something
to show their law enforcement officers and the community at the end of the day.
Error in charges: A mistake of the arresting officer or subsequent investigations could label
your crime as a felony when it is really a misdemeanor. For example, an
assault charge could be reduced if the injury inflicted upon the victim
is found to be not severe enough to constitute a felony, as in, if it
does not meet the level of “aggravated” assault.
Good behavior: If you were never sentenced to prison for your felony but were convicted,
you probably were sentenced to multiple years of probation. While this
can feel like a huge cloud over your head, it can be beneficial if you
can show that you are serious about correcting your lifestyle and staying
out of legal trouble. With an attorney, you may be able to convince the
court to withhold your adjudication of guilt on the felony, meaning you
are not a convicted felon, and can theoretically still have your record
sealed so long as you have no prior criminal convictions and have never
had your record sealed or expunged previously.
Improving Your Livelihood Through Reduction
If your Criminal Defense Attorney has helped you secure a reduced charge,
coming down from a felony to a misdemeanor, the benefits that are now
yours are amazing. For one, you can now honestly say that you have never
been convicted of a felony. In so many situations in life, this is a
huge deal, such as when you are applying for a new job or seeking child custody
rights in a divorce. And again, so long as there is no adjudication of
guilt for a felony or misdemeanor, you can have your record sealed or
possibly even expunged. By having your record sealed or expunged, your
record will be hidden from the public, so you can even go as far as to
say that you have never been convicted of the offense at all (with certain
exceptions per applicable Florida statutes).
If you would like more information about this complicated yet critically
useful process, be sure to
contact Panama City Criminal Defense Attorney Albert J. Sauline, III today. With more than a decade of Criminal Law experience, he can
analyze your case during a
free evaluation and determine if a reduced sentence could be an option. Call
850.250.3426 today to get started.