In Texas, felonies are reduced to misdemeanors all the time. This can be done several ways but almost always requires the agreement of the prosecutor.
Texas Penal code 12.44(a) and (b) are statutes governing reduction.
For a “12.44(a)”, the judge can impose misdemeanor punishment for a state jail felony where that is in the best interests of justice. The constraints of plea bargaining are such that this can typically only be done when the prosecuting attorney consents. For a “12.44(a),” the judge accepts the plea for the felony and the person is either convicted or placed on deferred for the felony — but the sentence range is reduced to that of a state jail felony (180 days to 2 years state jail and/or fine up to $10k) to a class A misdemeanor (0 days to 1 year in county jail and/ or fine up to $4k).
A “12.44(b)” is where a state jail felony is prosecuted as a class A misdemeanor. In this instance, the person is actually being charged and punished with a misdemeanor even though the legislature has deemed the actual offense worthy of a felony. A 12.44(b) requires the express consent of the prosecuting attorney. In this instance, the person is only convicted or placed on deferred for the misdemeanor.
Other ways felonies are reduced to misdemeanors is through plea bargaining. Plea bargaining occurs in practically every case and is legally a contractual negotiation by nature. Prosecutors often agree to reduce felonies to “lesser included” misdemeanors by agreement if the facts merit or if it’s in the best interests of justice.
Having a felony reduced to a misdemeanor is a very difficult task and attempting to do so should be handled by experienced criminal defense lawyers. Prosecutors hear many sob stories and are used to turning away people with hard-luck situations. Knowing how to fully analyze a criminal case and come up with creative solutions is something that is a bi-product of experience.
Jeremy F. Rosenthal, Esq.
Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For legal advice for any specific situation you should consult an attorney.