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REDUCING A CALIFORNIA FELONY SEX OFFENSE TO A MISDEMEANOR SEX OFFENSE

At Wallin & Klarich, our criminal defense attorneys collectively have decades of experience successfully helping people like you apply to be relieved of their legal obligation to register as sex offenders as specified in California Penal Code section 290. In some cases, having a California felony sex offense reduced to a misdemeanor California sex offense can help make it much easier to stop registering as a sexual offender for good.

How Can I Get My California Felony Sex Offense Reduced To A Misdemeanor Sex Offense?

Answering this question requires a little background on California criminal law. We have three levels of crimes in California– felony, misdemeanor, and infraction. (Pen. Code, § 16.) Felonies are punishable by death or imprisonment in state prison. (Pen. Code, § 17(a).) Misdemeanors are punishable by imprisonment in the county jail. (Pen. Code, §§ 19, 19.2.) Infractions cannot be punished by confinement in jail or prison and are generally punished by imposition of a fine or community service (ie: traffic tickets). (See Pen. Code, 19.6.) Let’s put infractions aside, since they typically involve things like a motor vehicle moving violations, and thus they’re not particularly relevant to our discussion about sex offender registration. That leaves misdemeanors and felonies.

So, how does one know whether a particular California crime is a felony or a misdemeanor? Generally, the applicable California Code will specify the punishment. If the Code specifies that a person convicted of a particular crime is to be punished by “imprisonment in the state prison,” the crime is a felony. If, on the other hand, the Code provides that a person convicted of the particular crime in issue is to be punished by “imprisonment in county jail,” the offense is a misdemeanor.

Of course, the law does not always make it that simple. There are many California Code sections that provide that a given crime is punishable by “imprisonment in state prison or in the county jail.” These crimes are called “wobbler” crimes, and they are discussed in Penal Code section 17(b)[i]. Generally speaking, such crimes are felony crimes unless the prosecutor files the case as a misdemeanor case, or unless and until the court orders the offense reduced to a misdemeanor. Sometimes the court does this at the time of sentencing. Sometimes the court does it years later when the defendant or his or her attorney goes back to court and files a request for the court to do this. Many times the court will do this if you were put on probation and successfully completed your probation. It’s important to note that, even if the crime is a “wobbler,” crime, if you were sentenced to state prison, the court does not have the authority to reduce your felony “wobbler” crime to a misdemeanor crime. It will remain a felony for all purposes.

Which Are California Sex Crimes Considered “Wobbler” Crimes?

Sex Offense - "Wobbler"
A “wobbler” sex offense is one that is not for certain and can be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the details of the case.

These “wobbler” crimes include:

  • Penal Code section 243.4[ii]
  • Penal Code section 261.5[iii]
  • Penal Code section 266[iii]
  • Penal Code section 266c[iii]
  • Penal Code section 286(b)(1)[iv]
  • Penal Code section 286(e)[iv]
  • Penal Code section 286(h)[iv]
  • Penal Code section 288(c)(1)[iv]
  • Penal Code section  288(c)(2)[iv]
  • Penal Code section 288a(b)(1)[iv]
  • Penal Code section 288a(e)[iv]
  • Penal Code section 288a(h)[iv]
  • Penal Code section 289(c)[iv]
  • Penal Code section 289(h)[iv]

How Can Getting My California Felony Sex Crime Reduced To A Misdemeanor Help Me Legally Avoid Registration?

Getting your conviction reduced to a misdemeanor crime will not, in and of itself, relieve you of the obligation to register as a sex offender. With that said, if you are able to get your felony “wobbler” sex offense reduced to a misdemeanor, and you are granted a Certificate of Rehabilitation by the court, that Certificate will allow you to legally stop registering as a sex offender. On the other hand, if the offense remains a felony crime, being granted a Certificate of Rehabilitation will not relieve you of the legal obligation to register as a sex offender. You’ll have to either be granted BOTH a Certificate of Rehabilitation and Governor’s pardon, or a “traditional” Governor’s pardon. If you can avoid having to get a Governor’s pardon to stop registering as a sexual offender, that is the far better course, and, accordingly, if possible, it is best to get that felony reduced to a misdemeanor before trying to address relief from sex offender registration.

We Can Help You – Give Us A Call Today

Wallin & Klarich’s team of sex offense attorney have decades of combined experience in helping people just like you seek and obtain relief from sex offender registration. We have helped countless people apply to have their felony California sex offenses reduced to misdemeanor California sex offenses, and we’re confident we can help you too.

Contact us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL (877-466-5245) for a free, no obligation consultation.


[i]Information on Penal Code 17b retrieved from http://law.onecle.com/california/penal/17.html

[ii]Information on Penal Code 243 retrieved from http://law.onecle.com/california/penal/243.html

[iii] Information on Penal Codes 261-269 retrieved from http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/face/codes_displaySection.xhtml?lawCode=PEN&sectionNum=261.

[iv] Information on Penal Codes 281-289.6 retireived from http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/cgi-bin/displaycode?section=pen&group=00001-01000&file=281-289.6 

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