"I understand that good people sometimes find themselves in bad situations."

Reducing Certain Felonies to a Misdemeanor Charge

by Aaron M. Black • March 25, 2021

A conviction for a felony will turn your life upside down and all that you have worked for and sacrificed to get can be lost.

In certain situations involving a Class 6 felony, the least serious in the range of felonies, it may be possible to have the felony reduced to a Class 1 misdemeanor, the most serious in the misdemeanor class, but still much easier to live with than a felony conviction.

The felony involved must be eligible for reduction.

So, how can reducing an eligible felony to a misdemeanor be accomplished? Arizona Revised Statue §13-604 allows a judge to “designate” the Class 6 felony to a Class 1 misdemeanor.

Arizona Felony Conviction Reduced to Misdemeanor

Eligibility for reducing the charge

To be eligible, the Class 6 felony charge must not involve an offense that was dangerous. A dangerous felony conviction does not allow probation which is critical in reducing the felony and thereby its penalties.

The court will take into consideration the circumstances and nature of the offense, as well as the defendant’s history and character.

It is important to note that the ability to reduce the felony to a misdemeanor does not apply to defendants who have been previously convicted of two or more felonies.

Designated and undesignated offenses

An undesignated offense is defined as the offense that results in either a felony or a misdemeanor. The felony is still treated as such until the court “designates” the offense as a misdemeanor.

The offense can be deemed as a misdemeanor if the attorney prosecuting the case files with the court one of three considerations, any one of which will do:

  • An “information” designating the offense as a misdemeanor

  • A complaint in municipal or justice court designating the offense as a misdemeanor within the court’s jurisdiction, or

  • A complaint with the defendant’s consent amending the charge to a misdemeanor before or during a preliminary hearing of the case

If the court forms the opinion that a sentence for the felony would be “unduly harsh” in a particular case, the court may decide to reduce the conviction to a Class 1 misdemeanor.

However, the court will order the defendant to be placed on probation and will not designate the offense as a Class 1 misdemeanor until the period of probation required is successfully finished, including the conditions of probation along with its fees, fines, and restitution.

When the term of probation is finished it is best to check the criminal record to ensure that the undesignated felony has been reduced.

The plea agreement

Another way to have a Class 6 felony charge reduced to a Class 1 misdemeanor is by entering into a plea agreement with the prosecution.

A skilled defense attorney may find issues with the prosecution’s case or identify procedural problems. If so, the prosecution will let the defendant plead guilty to a Class 1 misdemeanor or an undesignated Class 6 felony that can be reduced to a misdemeanor later if all the terms of probation are met. The defense attorney can also negotiate the terms of probation so the terms are manageable for the defendant.

However, a defendant who has a prior felony conviction likely will not be successful in getting the current Class 6 felony reduced.

Also, all plea agreements must be approved by the court, but the court does not have to accept the deal worked out by the defense and prosecution.

Setting aside a felony conviction

Arizona does not allow a conviction to be expunged, meaning removed, from criminal records, but “setting aside” a nonviolent felony conviction is possible under Arizona Revised Statute §13-905.” This legal avenue is limited to defendants who have not been previously convicted of a felony.

Setting aside removes the judgement of guilt and all penalties stemming from the conviction. People who research the background of a prospective employee or residential renter will see on the criminal history that the conviction has been set aside. The researcher’s opinion of the person will have a better impression.

The court in weighing a set aside application considers several factors including any prior convictions, the circumstances of the crime, and how much time has passed since the crime occurred. A felony involving a victim who was younger than 15 cannot be set aside.

Setting aside a felony conviction also means that civil rights, including owning and possessing a firearm and the right to vote can be restored.

Consequences of a felony conviction

If a felony cannot be reduced, the convicted felon faces severe punishments. A felony conviction has far reaching ramifications into a felon’s financial, family, and personal well-being.

  • The conviction means time in prison, expensive fines and fees, the loss of the Second Amendment right to own and possess a firearm, losing the right to vote in local and federal elections, hold public office, admonished from a citizen’s duty to serve on jury, an order to pay restitution, a term of probation with restrictive conditions, difficulty in keeping or finding a job, revocation or suspension of a professional license ending a career, and a criminal record that will follow you for a lifetime.

  • Personally, the felony conviction can harm a marriage or relationships with children, relatives, friends and coworkers.

  • A designation as a misdemeanor conviction avoids all of the felony punishments with the exception of a criminal record that is posted online for everyone to see.
     

Getting started

This area of law requires a skilled attorney who has represented people in this situation.

It is imperative to be successful in reducing a Class 6 felony that you have legal representation as early as possible to design and build arguments for achieving the misdemeanor designation. Most people do not know a criminal defense lawyer, so it is best to determine your legal needs and search for an attorney based on the lawyer’s experience and demeanor.

Protect your legal rights

The Law Office of Aaron M. Black is dedicated to aggressively defending people in legal trouble and I am well-versed in reducing nonviolent Class 6 felonies to Class 1 misdemeanors.
I provide individualized services so you will always be talking directly to me, never an assistant.

I am rated in the top one percent of the finest lawyers in the nation by the National Association of Distinguished Counsel and I am listed in the Top 100 trial lawyers by the National Trial Lawyers Association.

Contact me by calling 480-729-1683 at any time, day or night, weekends or holidays. Or use my easy contact form. I will respond promptly unless I am in court. I defend criminal charges in federal, state, city and justice courts in and near Maricopa County.
 

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In light of the Coronavirus pandemic, I wanted to inform clients and potential clients I am still available for consultations. I am always available by phone, text and/or email. We can also use Facetime for social distancing. The criminal justice system is not stopping due to COVID-19.
 

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