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Reduction of a Felony to a Misdemeanor - Penal Code 17(b)



Reduction of Felony to Misdemeanor: Penal Code 17(b) 

In order to have a charge reduced from a Felony to a Misdemeanor the conviction must have been for what is commonly referred to as a “wobbler.” A wobbler is an offense that is chargeable either as a felony or a misdemeanor. The fact that the defendant pleads to the felony, as opposed to being found guilty, is irrelevant in deciding whether the reduction should apply. The primary statute dealing with this reduction is Penal Code 17(b). There are certain conditions:

–Primarily, that the defendant was not sentenced to state prison, even if the sentence was suspended.

–A sentence to county jail is acceptable for the reduction to apply.

–The court must give “individual consideration of the offense, the offender, and the public interest.”
People v Superior Court (Alvarez) (1997) 14 C4th 968

–A nonwobbler cannot be reduced to a misdemeanor, even if no state prison sentence was ordered. People v Mauch (2008) 163 CA4th 669, 674

Once the crime is reduced to a misdemeanor, it shall be treated as misdemeanor for all purposes. (Penal Code 17(b)). As in everything related to the law, there are exceptions to this rule:

–Under the Three Strikes law, it remains a prior strike, unless the reduction occurred at the time of the original sentence. Penal Code §667(d)(1).

–The crime remains a felony for attorney disciplinary purposes, as well as other government regulated professions. Although, in California, a teaching credential should not be affected. Gebremicael v California Comm'n on Teacher Credentialing.

– For purpose of gun statutes, the Federal Government can still consider it a felony. Thus, gun rights will not be restored. Although, the reduction would preclude prosecution for a future event which requires a felony conviction as an element of the crime, i.e. Felon in possession of a gun. People v Gilbreth (2007) 156 CA4th 53, 57, 67


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