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The Spodek Law Group understands how delicate high-profile cases can be, and has a strong track record of getting positive outcomes. Our lawyers service a clientele that is nationwide. With offices in both LA and NYC, and cases all across the country - Spodek Law Group is a top tier law firm.

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Can a Federal Felony Be Reduced to a Misdemeanor? – Attorney Explanation

By Spodek Law Group | October 20, 2023
(Last Updated On: October 27, 2023)

Last Updated on: 27th October 2023, 06:54 pm


Can a Federal Felony Be Reduced to a Misdemeanor? – Attorney Explanation

A lot of people wonder if a federal felony charge can be reduced to a misdemeanor. The short answer is sometimes yes, but usually no. Let me explain.

First off, what’s the difference between a felony and misdemeanor? Felonies are more serious crimes that are punishable by over a year in prison. Misdemeanors are lesser offenses with maximum jail sentences of a year or less . So felonies carry much stiffer penalties and long-lasting consequences.

When someone is facing federal felony charges, they naturally want to find any way to reduce the offense to something less serious. But unfortunately, its just not that simple.

Why Reducing a Federal Felony is Hard

There’s a few big reasons why getting a federal felony dropped to a misdemeanor is so tough:

  • Strict federal sentencing guidelines – Federal judges have less flexibility and discretion when it comes to sentencing compared to state courts. The federal sentencing guidelines lay out clear punishment ranges based on the crime, making it hard for judges to lower felony sentences .
  • No “wobbler” offenses – In some states, certain crimes are chargeable as either felonies or misdemeanors at the prosecutor’s discretion. But there are no “wobbler” offenses in the federal system.
  • Limited plea bargaining – While plea deals are common, federal prosecutors are generally less willing to reduce felony charges to misdemeanors compared to state-level DAs.

Because of these factors, getting a federal felony dropped to a misdemeanor through a plea bargain or judicial discretion is uncommon. But there are some limited situations where it can happen.

When a Federal Felony Can Potentially Become a Misdemeanor

Here are a few scenarios where a federal felony may be able to be reduced to a misdemeanor:

  1. Minor drug possession charges – For small amounts of drugs like marijuana, prosecutors may agree to drop felony drug possession to a misdemeanor drug paraphernalia charge as part of a plea deal .
  2. Non-violent crimes with low sentencing guidelines – For certain non-violent federal felonies with low sentencing ranges under the guidelines, prosecutors may agree to a misdemeanor plea.
  3. First-time offenses by youth – Prosecutors are sometimes willing to reduce a minor first-time felony to a misdemeanor for young defendants with no criminal history.
  4. Sentencing departures – In rare cases, judges can issue a “downward departure” from the sentencing guidelines, allowing a felony to be sentenced like a misdemeanor. But this requires prosecutors agreeing not to object .

As you can see, these situations are limited. The offense has to be relatively minor, the defendant sympathetic, and prosecutors cooperative for a felony becoming a misdemeanor to even be possible.

The Consequences of a Federal Felony Conviction

Even if its unlikely, it’s understandable why someone facing federal felony charges would try anything to get them reduced. That’s because a federal felony conviction comes with severe long-term consequences like:

  • – Years or even decades in federal prison
  • – Massive fines up to $250,000 for individuals
  • – Lifelong loss of gun ownership rights
  • – Potential deportation for non-citizens
  • – Limited employment opportunities and professional licenses
  • – Ineligibility for public housing and government benefits
  • – Not being able to vote or serve on a jury

And those are just a few of the consequences. Suffice to say a federal felony conviction can negatively impact someone’s life forever. So looking for ways to reduce the charges is smart.

Strategies for Reducing Federal Felony Charges

If you’re facing federal felony charges, here are some strategies your defense attorney may use to get them reduced or dismissed:

  • – Look for illegal searches, lack of Miranda rights, or other ways to get evidence thrown out
  • – Challenge the prosecutor’s ability to prove every element of the felony beyond a reasonable doubt
  • – Provide evidence of an addiction, mental illness or other mitigating factor
  • – Offer substantial assistance in the prosecution of someone else
  • – Make a persuasive case for a sentencing departure
  • – Negotiate a plea deal to a lesser included misdemeanor offense

The key is having an experienced federal criminal defense lawyer who understands all the tools available. They can analyze the specifics of your case and determine if there’s any viable path to reducing felony charges.

The Bottom Line

Getting a federal felony reduced to a misdemeanor is very difficult and only possible in limited circumstances. But for the right defendant with the right facts and lawyer, its not completely impossible. Every case is different. So if you’re facing federal felony charges, consult with a knowledgeable attorney to explore any options. Don’t just assume there’s no hope!


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