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In the State of California, a Penal Code 17(b) motion is one in which a defendant petitions the court to reduce a felony charge to a misdemeanor. This can only be done if the offense is a wobbler offense, which means the crime could have been originally charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. A 17(b) motion can be made at the end of the preliminary hearing, at sentencing, or on completion of felony probation.
The language in California Penal Code 17(b) PC states:
“(b) When a crime is punishable, in the discretion of the court, either by imprisonment in the state prison or imprisonment in a county jail under the provisions of subdivision (h) of Section 1170, or by fine or imprisonment in the county jail, it is a misdemeanor for all purposes under the following circumstances . . . (3) When the court grants probation to a defendant without imposition of sentence and at the time of granting probation, or on application of the defendant or probation officer thereafter, the court declares the offense to be a misdemeanor.”
A felony convictions place a huge burden on ex-convicts in our society. It makes it very hard to get a job. Also, state licensing boards can refuse to certify you for certain professions and felons cannot own, possess or use any firearms. Thankfully, there is hope.
The California criminal defense attorneys at Spodek Law Group will explain the process and benefits of a felony being reduced to a misdemeanor in California.
If, after reading this article, you have further questions, reach out to the experienced California criminal defense attorneys of Spodek Law Group
A reduction of a felony charge to a misdemeanor under PC 17(b) provides multiple important benefits including:
California Penal Code 17(b) PC establishes requirements for reducing a felony conviction to a misdemeanor as the underlying offense has to be a wobbler, and probation must have been granted.
In order for you to lower your felony conviction to a misdemeanor, both of these requirements have to be satisfied. Therefore, even if your offense was a wobbler, but you were incarcerated in a California state prison, you cannot be ineligible for this relief.
What about felonies that have county jail sentences attached under AB 109?
Pursuant to California realignment (AB 109), a state prison sentence for a selection of felonies has been replaced by an equivalent sentence served in county jail. California judges treat these county jail sentences as state prison sentences when conducting felony reductions. If you are sentenced to county jail pursuant to Penal Code 1170(h) PC for a felony, you would not be eligible to reduce your felony conviction to a misdemeanor under PC 17(b).
The court may reduce a “wobbler” felony to a misdemeanor at any of the following stages:
Also, if you are currently serving felony probation, the California expungement lawyers at Spodek Law Group can still petition the court at this point to drop your felony dropped to a misdemeanor after probation. In some scenarios, we may even be able to help you get an early termination of your probation so as to expedite this process.
Alternatively, if you’re already completed your probation, we can petition the court to reduce your felony to a misdemeanor at any point in time.
There are numerous factors that the judge takes under consideration when deciding whether to grant a PC 17(b) felony reduction. The judge will look at the nature of the crime, the facts of the case, your compliance with the terms and conditions of your probation, and your criminal and personal history.
Oftentimes, the prosecutor will step in to argue that the conviction should not be reduced. The judge may or may not consider this position. Other times, if the prosecuting attorney doesn’t object, he or she may simply remain silent on the issue.
A California expungement under PC 1203.4, which is available for both felonies and misdemeanors, customarily relieves you of all “penalties and disabilities” connected with your criminal conviction. The benefits of an expungement are generally the ultimate goal for our clients for whom we seek early termination of probation or reduction of a felony to a misdemeanor.
A 17b Motion as a Strategy to Win Total Expugement
A felony conviction can be expunged without first reducing it to a misdemeanor. That said, an expunged misdemeanor is a more favorable scenario than an expunged felony. The former preserves certain rights and benefits that can be denied even to persons who have expunged their felony conviction. This is a good reason why many clients elect to first seek a PC 17(b) felony reduction and then pursue an expungement of the misdemeanor.
Indeed, a few of the penalties of a California felony conviction do carry over even after your felony is reduced to a misdemeanor. Here are some issues you may face:
In spite of common misconceptions, the right to vote isn’t revoked from all felons. You only lose your right to vote if, at the time of an election, you are in a state prison or you’re on parole following a felony conviction. Thankfully, apart from these exceptions, a Penal Code 17(b) felony reduction is classified as a misdemeanor conviction for all purposes.
Call our offices for more information . . .
If you or someone you know needs help with reducing a felony to a misdemeanor under Penal Code 17(b) PC, you are welcome to contact us at Spodek Law Group. Our caring and highly skilled lawyers can provide a free consultation with sound legal advice in office or by phone. We nurture our attorney-client relationships and all around Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, Orange County, Ventura, San Bernardino, Rancho Cucamonga, Pasadena, Long Beach, Riverside, San Francisco, San Diego, Sacramento, Oakland, San Jose and throughout the Golden State.
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