REDUCING CALIFORNIA FELONY CONVICTIONS
Nobody Wants a Felony on Their Record
Having a criminal record in California makes life more difficult. A criminal record can limit you from getting the job you want, obtaining housing, getting professional licenses, legally owning a firearm, qualifying for government programs, receiving student loans, and many other opportunities which would otherwise be available to you.
Expungements under Penal Code Section 1203.4 are the most common post-conviction remedies for felony convictions in California, but felony reductions under PC 17(b) are a close second. In fact, when possible, they’re often filed at the same time, on the same document.
A California felony expungement reopens your criminal case and changes the result from a conviction to a dismissal. The expunged criminal record will appear in some background checks, but it will show up as a dismissed case. When you also reduce a felony conviction, the case is essentially reopened, the charge is reduced to a misdemeanor, and then it is dismissed.
The reduction of a felony often has the effect of restoring your California firearm rights, which is discussed further on our California Firearm Rights Restoration page. Further, recent California law has made it an “unlawful employment practice” for an employer with more than five employees to inquire about expunged convictions.
This Information Is For You
Since the majority of people reading this aren’t lawyers, we’ve tried to simplify the legal jargon on our website, so regular people may follow along and get the information needed to understand their rights. However, before we get started, we should be clear that some of this information can get complicated, and, in many cases, it’s best to seek the assistance of an experienced lawyer.
To help you understand your rights, our lawyers have developed a tool that can be helpful in figuring out your options. This tool can’t be perfectly accurate in every situation, but our lawyers have invested substantial time and resources working to make it as accurate as possible.
You can get started by using our Secure Eligibility Test, or you can give us a call at (844) 947-3732 to see if our legal staff is available for a free consultation. Be aware that our staff is often busy with current clients and a high volume of calls and appointments. If you’re serious about getting rid of your record, your best bet is to take our secure, confidential Eligibility Test and then schedule an appointment to discuss your results and options.
Mr. Eastman serves as the firm’s managing partner, and is licensed to practice law in California, Oregon, and Texas.
Sam has helped thousands of clients expunge, seal, and set-aside records across the country, and has a passion for criminal justice reform. Previously, Mr. Eastman represented a number of corporate clients, focusing on tax law, mergers and acquisitions, and a variety of corporate transactions.
Mr. Eastman earned his JD and LLM from the University of San Diego School of Law, and his undergraduate degree from the University of Oregon.
Can You Reduce Your California Felony Conviction?
California law allows you to reduce felony convictions in many situations under PC 17(b), but not everything qualifies. There are certain felony offenses that do not currently qualify to be reduced under California law, and you generally can’t have been sentenced to prison. In addition to meeting these requirements, you must have successfully completed probation and paid all fines, restitution, and other financial terms imposed by the court.
- General Requirements to Reduce a Felony Conviction in Californiaexpand_more
The general requirements to reduce a felony conviction in California are explained more below, but the general requirements are similar to the requirements under PC 1203.4 and include:
Successful completion of probation
The felony offense was a “wobbler” that could have been charged as a misdemeanor or felony or “realignment” offense listed in PC 1170(h)
You were not sentenced to prison for the conviction you’re trying to reduce (with some exceptions)
No current charges or pending criminal proceedings
Reducing the felony would be in the “best interests of justice.”
- 1. Successfully Completing Probationexpand_more
To qualify for a felony reduction, PC 17(b) requires that you were sentenced to probation. Although the statute does not specifically state that you must successfully complete the terms of probation, it is doubtful that a judge would find it in the best interest of justice to reduce a felony when probation isn’t completed. If you’re still on probation, you can sometimes petition to terminate your probation early under PC 1203.3 and file for an expungement and/or felony reduction at the same time. If you want to learn about terminating your probation early, please visit our California Expungement page for more information.
- 2. No Pending Charges or Criminal Proceedingsexpand_more
While PC 17(b) does not specifically state that you may not have any pending charges to apply to have your felony reduced, it is doubtful that the court would grant your felony reduction if you have current charges or other pending criminal proceedings. This concept should be fairly easy to understand, but please feel free to reach out to us if you need clarification.
- 3. Not Being Sentenced to Prisonexpand_more
The most common requirement seeming to disqualify people from reducing felony convictions is that you cannot have been sentenced to California State Prison. If you were sentenced to California State Prison, you will not qualify to reduce your felony conviction. The plain text of the statute requires that you were sentenced to probation when convicted. However, recent law has made clear that you can have a suspended prison sentence and still qualify, so long as you did not actually get sentenced to prison.
- 4. Must Be a “Wobbler” or “Realignment” Felonyexpand_more
One of the main requirements in reducing your felony conviction to a misdemeanor under PC 17(b) is that the offense is a “wobbler.”
A “wobbler” is a term frequently used in California criminal law to describe a crime that could be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony, meaning, the prosecutor has discretion on the severity of the charges to bring against you. There are many criminal offenses considered to be “wobblers” in California, ranging from violent crimes such as assault with a deadly weapon to white collar crimes like money laundering. We have put together a list of “Wobbler” offenses that should serve as a starting place to see if you meet this requirement.
- 5. The Best Interests of Justiceexpand_more
California case law has established that reduction of a felony conviction to a misdemeanor under PC 17(b) is discretionary, and the reduction must essentially be in the best interests of justice. Although there is no statutory definition of what is to be considered, case law suggests that the following factors will be considered by a judge for a felony reduction, including:
The details of your criminal history
The facts and circumstances of the case leading to your conviction
Whether you complied with the terms of your probation
The nature of the offense of your conviction
Whether you’ve shown signs of rehabilitation and
Other personal factors that tend to establish whether the relief should be granted.
How Can Reducing Your California Felony Conviction Help You Get Ahead?
Reducing a felony conviction under California law on its own does not allow you to legally state that you were not convicted of a crime. However, if you also expunge the reduced conviction, you may legally do so. Further, reducing a felony conviction under PC 17(b) will often restore your firearm rights if this was the conviction that took them away. Felony reductions and firearm rights are discussed briefly below, and in more detail on our California Firearm Rights Restoration Page.
The two biggest issues our law firm’s clients encounter relate to obtaining employment and restoring firearm rights, so we’re going to discuss each.
- How Will Reducing My Felony Conviction Help Me Get A Job?expand_more
An expungement is typically a better remedy than a felony reduction for employment purposes. While a reduction may relieve you of being a felon, which is important, your record will still indicate a conviction until it is also expunged.
- Will Reducing My Felony Restore My Second Amendment Rights?expand_moreA felony reduction under PC 17(b) will often restore your firearm rights if that conviction is what led to having your firearms taken away, and if there is no other federal or state reason that your firearms have been restricted.
Not everybody with a California juvenile conviction can restore their constitutional right to own or possess firearms, but California’s laws are favorable when compared to most other states. It should be noted that you can almost never restore firearm rights based on federal convictions, and it can be very difficult if your Second Amendment rights were taken away due to a domestic violence conviction. For more information about federal firearm rights and domestic violence charges, the Department of Justice has resources you can find over domestic violence convictions.
We will go into more detail regarding restoring Second Amendment rights in California on our California Firearm Rights Restoration page, but restoration typically involves both state and federal law that should be handled by an experienced lawyer. The lawyers in our firm regularly handle complex firearm rights restoration issues, so a good first step in exploring whether you can restore your firearm rights would be to take our Secure Eligibility Test. Then, if appropriate, setting up a time to speak with our legal staff about how to proceed.
What You Need to Do to Get Rid of Your Record
If you are tired of having a criminal record hold you back, reach out to us by taking our Secure Eligibility Test or by giving us a call at (844) 947-3732. Our law firm has helped thousands of people with criminal records move on in life, leaving many of the negative effects of a criminal record behind. Our experienced attorneys and legal staff are here to help you figure out what criminal record clearing services best fit your needs, and then help you accomplish your goals. Using our secure, confidential Eligibility Test is the best way to get the process started.Some of the potential benefits of getting rid of your arrest record in California include:
Removing a finding of guilt and closing the case on your criminal record to help you get a better job
Becoming eligible for professional licenses you previously did not qualify for
Increased eligibility for student loans, housing assistance, and government programs
Increased eligibility for student loans, housing assistance, and government programs
Improving your ability to obtain higher-paying job opportunities
Improving access and admission to college and other educational resources
We Are Here to Help
Each of California’s methods for dealing with your criminal record have different requirements and are meant for different circumstances. To move forward, it’s important to determine what California criminal record services are available to you, and then select the services that will provide the greatest benefit. Eastman Meyler, PC is here to help you navigate this very specific area of California criminal law, fight to protect your rights, and assist you in moving forward in life without the effects of a California criminal record.
You can trust that you will get exceptional service from our law firm, as we have an A Rating from the Better Business Bureau, and prestigious attorney rating services such as Thompson Reuters and Avvo list our attorneys as Super Lawyers and Superb Attorneys. Our law firm has attorneys licensed to practice law in all California state courts, provides low price guarantees, and is here to fight for you and put your criminal record behind you!