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Benefits & Eligibility of Reducing a Felony Charge to a Misdemeanor

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.