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Can a Felony be Reduced to a Misdemeanor in Texas?

In Texas, criminal offenses generally tend to fall under one of two categories: misdemeanors or felonies. Misdemeanors are moderate to serious criminal offenses that typically involve punishments of up to a year in a county jail facility and/or a $4,000 fine. Felonies, however, are almost always serious, life-changing offenses that involve punishments such as prison-time, life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, and in the most extreme circumstances…even death! Not to even mention the slew of collateral consequences that often result from being charged with a felony including, but not limited to, the inability to acquire or maintain employment, the inability to obtain mortgage loans and other financial benefits, the inability to rent an apartment, and removal and/or deportation from the United States. As someone who handles these types of crimes and represents people who have been charged with them on a daily basis, I often times get the question, “Is there any way that my felony might be able to get reduced or dropped down to a misdemeanor?” Well…read on to find out!

Reduction of State Jail Felony Punishment to Misdemeanor Punishment in Collin County, Texas

Section 12.44(a) of the Texas Penal Code provides that “a court may punish a defendant who is convicted of a State Jail Felony by imposing the confinement permissible as punishment for a Class A Misdemeanor if, after considering the gravity and circumstances of the felony committed and the history, character, and rehabilitative needs of the defendant, the court finds that such punishment would best serve the ends of justice.”

Notice the specific word, punishment, in the above paragraph. This is important because this law only lessens the punishment for a felony. It does not lessen or reduce the actual charge. Also, this law only applies to someone who has been charged with a State Jail Felony. So, it can be beneficial because it allows someone who has been charged with a State Jail Felony to have his or her punishment assessed as a Class A Misdemeanor if the facts of the case warrant a reduction. However, this law does not reduce the actual criminal charge, which can often times still result in some of the collateral consequences related to felonies that were discussed above.

Reduction of State Jail Felony Prosecution to Misdemeanor Prosecution

Texas Penal Code, Section 12.44(b) provides that, “at the request of the prosecuting attorney, the court may authorize the prosecuting attorney to prosecute a State Jail Felony as a Class A Misdemeanor.”

This law works the same way as the one above in that it only applies to someone who has been charged with a State Jail Felony. However, it deals with the actual criminal charge, rather than just the punishment. Therefore, this law essentially reduces both the criminal charge and the punishment down to the level of a Class A Misdemeanor, which means that many of the collateral consequences that are associated with felonies will be avoided.

So, How Can a Felony Get Reduced to a Misdemeanor in Collin County?

If you’re going to have a shot at getting a felony reduced down to a misdemeanor, you’re generally going to need two things. First, you’re going to need an experienced criminal defense attorney who can realistically evaluate the facts of your specific case and uncover all of the weaknesses that the State faces. While the law states that a felony reduction may take place when it would “serve the ends of justice;” in reality, a reduction is highly unlikely unless the prosecuting attorney consents to it as part of a plea bargain.

The second thing that you’ll need for a chance at getting a felony reduction is a bit of luck. As I mentioned above, it’s generally completely up to the State’s prosecuting attorney whether or not to allow or agree to a felony reduction. And, an experienced criminal defense attorney can point out the flaws and weaknesses in the State’s case to apply pressure for a felony reduction. But, if there are no significant flaws or weaknesses in the State’s case against you, it isn’t very likely that the prosecuting attorney will consider a felony reduction based upon sympathy alone. Prosecutors have heard every excuse in the book, so they’re accustomed to holding out on a reduction request when the facts of a case do not warrant one.

The reality is that, in order to have a decent chance at getting a felony reduced to a misdemeanor, you’re going to need to have a case with facts that tend to warrant a reduction and a defense attorney who can present those facts in a way that ultimately persuades the prosecuting attorney to consent to or agree to a reduction. So, if you have been charged with a felony in Collin County, Texas, please feel free to contact me at (972) 372-4054 to discuss the facts of your case and see how I can help you!

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