Reducing a Felony Conviction to a Misdemeanor

Having a felony on your record can pose significant challenges.  A felony can hinder a person’s ability to find work as well as their ability to find a place to live.  Clearly, being charged with a felony is a big problem that can have life altering consequences.  The ability to get a felony reduced to a misdemeanor is a huge opportunity, as misdemeanors do not carry nearly the weight of felony convictions.  Luckily, there are a few mechanisms in Indiana law that permit felonies to be reduced to misdemeanors.

For pending cases, the most common way for felonies to be reduced to misdemeanors is via the Alternate Misdemeanor Sentencing (AMS) portion of the Level 6 felony sentencing statute.  Level 6 felonies are punishable by 6 months to 2.5 years.  However, subsection (c) of the statute governing the penalty range for Level 6 felonies provides that:

“…(I)f a person has committed a Level 6 felony, the court may enter judgment of conviction of a class A misdemeanor and sentence accordingly.”

In practice, AMS can be granted either “up front” or “on the back end” of a sentence.  Granting AMS “up front” means that the charge will be reduced to a misdemeanor at the time of sentencing.  Thus, the entire sentence will be limited to the penalty range for a Class A misdemeanor, which is 0-365 days.  Obviously, this is a significant departure from the penalty range of a Level 6 felony.  Granting AMS “on the back end” of a sentence means that the charge will remain a felony until the completion of the sentence with no violations.  When this occurs, there is usually a sentence issued in an amount greater than 365 days.  Back-end AMS is a common way for prosecutors and judges to incentivize a defendant to complete all terms of a sentence in order to “earn” the misdemeanor conviction instead of a felony.

It is important to understand that AMS is only available to eligible defendants.  Certain crimes, such as domestic violence charges, perjury charges, and sex crimes are not eligible for AMS treatment.  Also, defendants are only eligible to receive AMS if they haven’t received AMS within the last three years for a prior case.

If an individual has already completed a sentence for a Level 6 felony, and the charge has not yet been reduced to a misdemeanor, there is still a route available to reclassify the conviction as a misdemeanor.  The defendant must file a petition with the court that sets forth the crime they were convicted of, the date of the conviction, the date the sentence was completed, the conditions of the sentence, the date the conditions were completed, and a verified statement that there are no other criminal charges pending against the defendant.

If a defendant is petitioning the court to reduce a felony to a misdemeanor after the completion of a sentence, additional parameters must be met.  Three years must have elapsed since the successful completion of the sentence.  Additionally, the conviction cannot have been a sex crime, a crime that caused injury to another, a crime involving official misconduct, or perjury.  As long as all of those conditions are met, the court has the authority to reduce the felony to a misdemeanor.

Clearly, reducing a felony to a misdemeanor is not easy.  If you are charged with a felony, contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Banks & Brower, LLC.  We are available at all times by calling us at (317) 870-0019, or by emailing info@banksbrower.com.