Factors for Reducing Felony Criminal Charges to Misdemeanors
Felony criminal allegations are extremely serious. In certain situations, it may not be possible to get a felony charge dismissed. The next question from a client is usually, can this be reduced to a misdemeanor? The short answer is yes! The ability to reduce a case from a felony to a misdemeanor is usually in the hands of the prosecutor as part of the plea negotiation process. A number of factors are taken into account when negotiating for a lesser included offense.
- What crime are you currently accused of committing?
- What is your criminal history?
- Is there a victim involved? If so, what is the victim’s opinion on the case?
- Are there proof problems with the prosecutor’s case?
The crime you are accused of committing is going to play an important role in determining if you can get a felony reduced to a misdemeanor. The more serious the criminal allegation, the less likely the prosecutor is going to agree to a reduction.
For example, if you are accused of murder or aggravated robbery, the prosecutor is not going to reduce the charge from a first-degree felony all the way down to a misdemeanor under normal circumstances. Typically, a serious crime like aggravated robbery is likely to receive a prison plea offer from the prosecutor – not a reduction to a misdemeanor.
On the other side, a low-level state jail drug or theft charge might be a prime target for a reduction to a misdemeanor. In fact, there is a Texas Penal Code section that deals directly with reducing a state jail felony to a misdemeanor. Section 12.44(b) specifically allows a prosecutor to reduce a state jail felony to a misdemeanor for all purposes.
Your criminal history is a second major consideration when you are looking for a misdemeanor reduction. A first-time offender is much more likely to get offered a reduction from a felony by a prosecutor. It is hard to argue with a prosecutor who points out that a potential client already has a felony conviction when you are requesting a reduction of a current felony charge. Obviously, there is a difference between types of felony convictions, but any criminal history is going to weigh heavily in the negotiations.
If the case involves a victim, then the prosecutor and even the judge will likely give consideration to their wishes on the case. Consideration does not mean that the prosecutor is going to do what the victim requests. It does mean that the prosecutor is likely to factor the victim’s statements into the plea negotiating. If the victim has told the prosecutor that this crime was horrible and negatively impacted their life, you can bet that your chances of getting a reduction are probably very thin.
On the other hand, if the victim is telling the prosecutor that they want the case dismissed or that the police report is not an accurate version of what occurred – your chances at a reduction increase. A victim’s statements to the prosecutor could also make the prosecutor reconsider the strength of the criminal case as a whole.
I always tell my clients that the plea offer is negotiable. I also tell them that the flexibility in the prosecutor’s offer is based on a number of factors. The most important issue is how confident the prosecutor is in proving the case at a trial. If the criminal case against you is serious and there is a confession or video footage of the crime occurring, it will be a lot tougher to get a misdemeanor offer. But, if you have a he-said/she-said assault case and the victim has voiced their concerns with the accuracy of the prior statements or has picked up criminal offenses of their own – the prosecutor might be more willing to offer a reduction in the case.
So far, we have discussed misdemeanor reductions through the plea bargain process and other ways to get a case reduced to a misdemeanor may be available. Regardless of your current background or the crime you are facing, you need to hire an experienced criminal attorney to cover all the potential avenues of defense. Whether it’s a reduction to a misdemeanor, a dismissal, or a trial – there is no substitute for getting serious advice from a serious criminal defense specialist.
Schedule an appointment with my office today at (972) 474-8575.