REDUCING YOUR FELONY CONVICTION TO A MISDEMEANOR – CALIFORNIA PENAL CODE 17(B)
Being convicted of a felony can be a life altering moment. At the time, it may seem like you have to live the rest of your life as a convicted felon. However, this is not always the case. Many of our clients who were convicted of felonies are eligible to have their convictions reduced to misdemeanors. This can be done under California Penal Code 17(b). A 17(b) reduction can alleviate many of the restrictions that come with being a convicted felon. You may be eligible for a reduction under PC 17(b) if:
- The felony you convicted of was a “wobbler” offense. This means the crime could have been charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony; and
- You received probation, and have successfully completed the terms of your probation.
PC 17(B) – BENEFITS
As obvious as it seems, a misdemeanor on your record in much more favorable than a felony on your record. Being able to legally state that you have not be convicted of a felony can open up a number of career opportunities, and have a major impact on your overall living situation. For example, a 17(b) reduction may allow you obtain a professional license, or to reacquire your 2ndAmendment right to possess a gun.
WHAT FELONIES OFFENSES MAY BE REDUCED
As discussed above, the felony conviction must be for a “wobbler” offense. In other words, a crime that could have also been charged as a misdemeanor. In California, there are many wobbler offenses. Some of the most common wobbler offenses we see include:
- PC 273 – Battery
- PC 245(a) – Assault with Deadly Weapon
- PC 459 – Burglary
- PC 422 – Criminal Threats
- Various Sex Crimes
- Various Theft Crimes
- Various Fraud Crimes
REQUIREMENT THAT PROBATION IN SENTENCED
A felony is classified as a crime punishable by at least one year in California state prison. However, many defendants receive probation as part of their sentence, rather than a California state prison sentence. In addition to the offense being a wobbler, you must also have received, and successfully completed, probation as a part of your sentence. If you were not sentenced to probation, you may not be eligible for a 17(b) reduction.
AB 109 and 17(B) REDUCTION
AB 109 allowed for many felony convictions, that resulted in a California state prison sentence, to allow for time to be served in county jail instead. For 17(b) purposes, these sentences still count as California state prison terms. Therefore, many convictions that were amended under AB 109 will not qualify for 17(b) reduction.
WHEN DO I BECOME ELIGIBLE TO HAVE MY CONVICTION REDUCED UNDER PC 17(B)?
There are a number of stages throughout your case in which your felony can be reduced to a less serious misdemeanor. This can occur after the preliminary hearing, at the sentencing phase of your case, or after you have successfully completed the terms of your probation. Even if you are still on probation, one of our attorneys can likely terminate your probationary period early. If it can be terminated, you will likely be eligible for both a reduction under 17(b), and an expungement.
WHAT DOES THE COURT LOOK AT IN CONSIDERING WHETHER TO REDUCE YOUR FELONY CONVICTION TO A MISDEMEANOR?
Basically, the court will consider the entirety of your case, and look at a number of various factors in making its decision. Some of the more common factors are:
- The severity and nature of the underlying offense;
- The specific facts of your case;
- Your compliance with the terms of probation;
- Your prior criminal history; and
- Any relevant personal circumstances.
FELONY EXPUNGEMENT VS. MISDEMEANOR EXPUNGEMENT IN SAN DIEGO COUNTY
Because both misdemeanors, and felonies can be expunged, we are often asked why it’s even necessary to have a felony reduced prior to expunging it. Basically, an expunged misdemeanor will look much better than a felony on your record. Additionally, felony convictions often require you to give up a number of rights. We see this most commonly in cases where our client’s gun rights have been restricted.
UNDERSTANDING THE STATUE – PC 17(b)
PC 17(b) give you the opportunity to motion to the court to replace your felony conviction with a misdemeanor conviction. According to relevant case law, there is no specific deadline by which your 17(b) motion must be prepared and filed with the court.
The Judge will review a number of factors during your 17(b) case, and is given wide discretion in reaching a decision on your case. Depending on the specifics of your case, the prosecution (usually the City Attorney or District Attorney’s Office) may choose to object to your motion. In 17(b) cases, a court hearing will usually be required so that each side can present oral argument as to how the case should be resolved. This takes place after the court and prosecution have sufficient time to review the motion. Many 17(b) motions are filed concurrently with Petitions for Dismissal under PC 1203.4 (expungement). Because of how much discretion the court has in these types of cases, it is important to have an advocate who understands the law and what the court will be looking for.
The most important thing to understand in evaluating a 17(b) case, is whether the underlying felony could have been filed as a misdemeanor. Not all California crimes are wobblers. Some can only be filed as felonies, and others can only be filed as misdemeanors. For your case to be reduced, it must be for the type of offense that can be filed as a felony or a misdemeanor. “Wobbler” is the common phrase used to describe these types of offenses.
According to the language of the statute, if a 17(b) motion is granted, your conviction must be treated as if it were a misdemeanor. This will look more favorable to employers and can help restore many of the rights you may have lost by being classified as a convicted felon. A successful 17(b) motion also allows you to state that you have not been convicted of a felony on applications.
CALIFORNIA PC 17
(a). Felonies are defined as crimes that are punishable by one year in California state prison or more. Any crime that does not meet the definition of a felony will be classified as either an infraction or a misdemeanor.
(b). If the following circumstances are met, the court has the discretion to consider a felony conviction a misdemeanor conviction, for all intents and purposes:
(1). If some punishment, other than California state prison time, is sentenced;
(2). If the defendant is committed to the California State Youth Authority, and the court designates the conviction to be a misdemeanor;
(3). If after application by the defendant, the court declares the conviction to be deemed a misdemeanor;
(4). If the prosecution specifies in the complaint that the offense will be a misdemeanor;
(5). If the offense is classified to be a misdemeanor at the preliminary hearing.
CALIFORNIA PC 17(B) & PROPOSITION 47
Generally, there are two distinct ways to reduce a felony conviction to a less severe misdemeanor. As noted above, wobbler offenses are typically eligible for reduction. In California, there are more than 200 separate wobbler offenses. To reiterate, wobbler offenses are those that can be charged as either felonies or misdemeanors depending on the specifics of the case. At the Record Expungement Attorney Law Firm, some of the most common 17(b) cases we encounter include the following wobbler offenses:
- Criminal Threats;
- Sex Crimes;
- Fraud Crimes;
- Assault & Battery.
The other condition that must be met in order for your case to be eligible, is that you must not have received a state prison bid as part of your sentence. Remember, felonies are crimes that are punishable by more than one year in California state prison. However, in reality, defendants often receive county jail time, or probation, in lieu of state prison time.
As an alternative, to 17(b), Prop 47 may be an alternative method to reducing your felony conviction. After Prop 47 passed, many crimes that were once classified as felonies were reclassified to misdemeanors. Some of the more common Prop 47 reduction cases we see include convictions for the following types of offenses:
- Forgery crimes;
- Theft crimes;
- Drug crimes;
- Fraud crimes.
Proposition 47 can be applied retroactively. This means that even if your offense occurred prior to 2011 when it passed, you can still have your conviction reduced to a misdemeanor. If your case was for a violent felony, or you are a registered sex offender, you may not qualify for a reduction. In reaching a decision on your case, the court will consider the unique facts of your case, your conviction record, and any additional information the court deems relevant.
HOW A 17(B) REDUCTION CAN RESTORE YOUR RIGHTS
Many felony convictions have any impact on your second amendment rights. More often than not, a felony conviction will lead to a lifetime firearm ban.
One of the most common reasons our clients are looking to reduce their felony conviction is so that they can restore their second amendment rights. Gun laws in the state of California can be very complex, and restoring your rights can often be a multiple step process. It is very important to consult with one of our attorneys if you are looking to restore your gun rights. In addition to, or as an alternative to, reducing your conviction, you may also need to obtain a governor’s pardon or certificate of rehabilitation. Contact one of our attorneys today to discuss your options.
Because a 17(b) reduction reclassifies your conviction as a misdemeanor for all intents and purposes, it is usually the quickest and easiest way to restore your rights. However, if you require a Certificate of Rehabilitation or Pardon, it’s very important that you are able to provide proof of good behavior for a long period of time. Generally, you should not have any convictions on your record for the past 10 years.
Not all of our clients are interested in their gun rights. However, a felony conviction can also restrict your ability to vote, and/or to serve on a jury. Both of which are important rights that we recommend restoring as soon as possible. Contact our office today to discuss your options.
17(B) & PC 1203.4
Most of our clients not only want their conviction to be reduced, but they also want it to be dismissed from their record. Both felonies and misdemeanors can be expunged under PC 1203.4. However, why have a felony conviction expunged when you can just as easily have a misdemeanor expunged. Your 17(b) motion can be filed concurrently with your petition to dismiss. This means that at one hearing the court can reduce your conviction, and dismiss it from your record at the same time. Generally, it does not delay the process to have both handled together, and our firm offers significant discounts for bundling this work together.
IF YOU WERE CONVICTED OF A FELONY, YOU MAY BE ELIGIBLE TO HAVE IT REDUCED TO A MISDEMEANOR. AT THE SAN DIEGO RECORD EXPUNGEMENT ATTORNEY LAW FIRM, OUR ATTORNEYS WILL FILE YOUR 17(B) MOTION TO REDUCE YOUR CONVICTION AND MAY BE ABLE TO GET YOUR RECORD EXPUNGED AT THE SAME TIME. CONTACT OUR OFFICE TODAY, AT 619-557-4081, FOR YOUR FREE CONSULTATION.
Don’t unnecessarily live your life as a convicted felon. There are a number of steps that can be taken to have your conviction reduced, and even dismissed, from your record. Our attorneys will evaluate your case at no cost to help determine how to best serve your needs. Everything discussed will remain completely confidential, and we will never judge you for your past mistakes. Our only goal is to help you put your past behind you, and begin working towards a new future. Whether that means a new job, a new school, or just turning a new leaf, we are here to help you every step of the way. Contact our office today at 619-557-4081.