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Downgrading Criminal Charges

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Downgrading criminal charges - Introduction

Downgrading criminal charges are one way to avoid jail. Every client that walks through our doors wants to get their criminal charges dismissed. It is possible but not common & definitely not easy. Since we devoted an entire post to dismissing criminal charges, we will not discuss it here. Instead, we will explain a lesser-known legal strategy we refer to as downgrading criminal charges.

Downgrading criminal charges - Overview

So you’re facing an indictable or disorderly persons offense

Your case will be resolved in several ways.

It may be:

You retain us and we exhaust our efforts to get your criminal charges dismissed. However, nothing works. For example, we filed a motion to suppress the evidence in your drug case & the court denied it. In another example, we challenge the probable cause in your harassment case but the court also denies our motion. Lastly, we file a motion to dismiss the indictment but the court finds that the prosecutor presented their case to the grand jury properly.

Next, our plea negotiation efforts with the prosecutor are fruitless. The prosecutor’s position is that the state’s case against you is strong. The state has enough evidence to go to trial & a dismissal is not an option.

You are not eligible for a diversionary program because you either have a criminal record, have participated in probation before, or your charges do not qualify for any type of probation.

What’s next?

We change our plea bargaining focus. Our objective is no longer to your charges dismissed. Now, we are concentrating our efforts on downgrading criminal charges.

Downgrading Criminal Charges - Explained

To help you understand the process of downgrading criminal charges, let’s use an example from the retail world. You purchase a product for $100.00 After using it for a  few months, you’re not happy with it & try to return it. The merchant (store owner) is willing to give you a refund but indicates that he/she can only refund a portion of the $100.00. Since the product is used, it value is no longer $100.00. You agree with the merchant’s reasoning & accept a 50% refund. You’re both happy & life goes on.

Downgrading criminal charges work in a similar way. Although the prosecutor believes that the state’s case is strong, there are no guarantees that a judge or jury will convict you. Rather than risking an acquittal (losing at trial), the prosecutor is open to a different type of plea negotiation.

The prosecutor may have several reasons for downgrading a charge. In addition to avoiding the risk of losing at trial, the prosecutor may want to avoid the time-consuming trial preparation involved in trials. Or the prosecutor may feel confident about proving some but not all of your charges beyond a reasonable doubt.

For example, one of our Bergen County clients faced a nine-count indictment. The prosecutor’s case was strong on five of those counts but weak on four. In this case, we worked with the prosecutor to dismiss eight counts of the indictment. In exchange, our client pleaded guilty to the downgraded ninth count of the indictment.

To illustrate, let’s assume that our client was facing a nine-count indictment for 3rd-degree drug possession. The process of downgrading criminal charges in this example consisted of having our client plead guilty to one count of 4th-degree drug possession. In this way, our client would not face 3-5 years in prison. Rather, he would only be sentenced to 6 months in county jail.

Downgrading Criminal Charges & Plea Bargains

The court rules in every jurisdiction across the United States encourage plea bargaining but prosecutors are under no obligation to offer a plea bargain. For example, if you are facing murder charges in New Jersey, the prosecutor does not have to offer you a plea. If a prosecutor has a slam dunk case against you, there’s no need to offer a plea. The prosecutor may have a video of you committing the murder & is literally guaranteed a conviction at trial. Once a jury sees the video, they will have no choice but to convict.

Now, let’s put this example aside and discuss how downgrading criminal charges is a form of plea bargaining. As criminal defense lawyers, when we work with prosecutors we discuss ways to resolve the case before us. We discuss the strengths & weaknesses of the state’s case, our client’s criminal history (or lack of it), our client’s probation options, possible punishment (sentencing) options, dismissing some charges, pleading guilty to other charges, and finally, downgrading criminal charges.

Downgrading criminal charges are at the heart of all plea negotiations. Often, police will overcharge a defendant. Overcharging means that you got accused of doing something much worse than what you actually did.

For example, let’s say that you’ve been charged with 2nd-degree aggravated assault. You are accused of breaking someone’s jaw (causing serious bodily injury). After we investigate, we learn that the victim’s jaw had been broken before you punched him. We cannot deny that you punched the victim but you did not cause his broken jaw. In this situation, you did commit an aggravated assault (punching someone in the face) but at most, you would be guilty of a 4th-degree felony.

In this scenario, we would work out a plea that reflects downgrading criminal charges.

Downgrading Criminal Charges - Can A Felony Go Down To A Misdemeanor?

Downgrading criminal charges from a felony to misdemeanor occurs daily. 

For this explanation, we will use a Jersey City client to illustrate.

We represented a client facing drug possession charges. The police arrested our client because he was in possession of more than 50 grams of marijuana. The police correctly charged our client with felony drug possession because anything over 50 grams is a felony in NJ. However, our client was barely over the 50-gram cutoff. Since the search & arrest were proper, we could not get the drug charges dismissed.

Instead, we got our client out of “felony-danger”. We convinced the prosecutor to downgrade the drug charges to a Municipal court disorderly persons offense. Our client paid a fine & gave us an awesome review!

Final Thoughts

Downgrading criminal charges are the next best thing to getting your charges dismissed. Downgrades allow you to avoid incarceration but you will get a criminal conviction. You will have to plead guilty to a criminal charge & pay fines. Of course, we work tirelessly to get your criminal charges dismissed but you must appreciate that this is not always possible.

In exchange for your guilty plea to the downgraded charge, you will avoid the anxiety & costs involved with taking your matter to trial. You will have control over the sentence imposed since we will have worked out your punishment as part of the deal. Your case will be closed & you will not have to appear week after week and month after month in court.

Downgrading criminal charges is an effective way to resolve your case so that prosecutors, judges, and victims will feel that justice has been served.

How We Can Help

Regardless of the criminal charges you are facing, we are here to defend & protect you. Whether you are facing a restraining order, drug charge, theft charge, or aggravated assault charge, we are here to help you. Even a DWI case can really complicate your life.

If we can’t get your charges dismissed, we can either get them downgraded or place you in a diversionary program. The point is, our criminal defense lawyers will fight tirelessly to get you the best result possible. Take advantage of our free consultation to see how we can help.

Our Experience

You or a loved one have been arrested. Understandably, you are terrified & have a lot of questions. You’ve heard about plea bargains & probation, but the process is overwhelming. You want a local attorney near you to represent you.

Mr. Peyrouton is from Ridgewood & handles all types of criminal matters in New Jersey The New Jersey Law Journal recently published one of his articles on the subject of criminal law.

Our Practice Areas

Below you will find some but not all of our practice areas. Of course, if you do not see your criminal charges listed, feel free to contact us for a free consultation. We will meet with you to discuss your case & to answer all of your legal concerns. Se habla español tambien!

Areas We Serve

Get Help With Your Case

How Do Your Free Consultations Work?

There are plenty of excellent criminal lawyers in the Hackensack area. Most, if not all of them, offer free, 20-minute, consultations. However, our free consultations do not have a time limit. You will never feel rushed.

The best way for us to help you is to patiently listen to your side of the story. Your version of events will serve as the basis for your legal defense. It is during these initial meetings that your memory of the event is fresh in your mind. Why we would rush you during such an important aspect of your case.

We understand that your choice of attorney could mean the difference between your freedom and spending years behind bars. 

When you hire an attorney, you are entering a long-term relationship. For this reason, it is important that you feel comfortable with the team of Hackensack criminal lawyers that will represent you.

What our clients say about us

Peyrouton Law
Based on 276 reviews
Alysa Melero
Alysa Melero
Makes a great confidant argument,and is such a comfort to have on our side!
Haitian Bokor Leonard Elmera
Haitian Bokor Leonard Elmera
This guy deserves 10 stars he works and is assertive. He is a heavy weight champ in the court room BEST LAWYER EVER he worked on my girlfriend’s case and got a her a victory. He is very meticulous and orderly in his defense. This guy is outstanding. 🥊 BEST LAWYER EVER !
MetalBabe87 Metal High Priestess
MetalBabe87 Metal High Priestess
I hired Al, for a Domestic Violence Situation. In the court system. He was beyond helpful. Very open and receptive. Communication was absolute key with him. He kept me in the know every email every text message. Communication was on point!He was and is very passionate. Leads with integrity boldness and truth. I have never seen so much tenacity in person. He was beyond helpful - explaining situations in the court system that I should expect.I highly recommend him. I will recommend him to any of my clients as well. He is absolutely excellent and straightforward. Definitely pushes the envelope and applies the pressure as a true lawyer should.Once again, I will absolutely recommend him for any cases in the future. An absolutely recommend him to friends and family. I hope to work with him again under better circumstances.Thank you so much - for your patience, guidance and help. You have been absolutely wonderful to work with.
Yvette Bariffe
Yvette Bariffe
Navigating the criminal justice system can be a daunting and intimidating experience. However, Peyrouton Law demonstrates an exceptional ability to guide clients through this complex world with the utmost professionalism. The firm embodies a comprehensive combination of knowledge, experience, tenacity, and effective representation. When my 22-year-old son, who resides in Chicago but works in New Jersey, inadvertently neglected to place his legally registered firearm in his checked luggage, he found himself facing arrest. As a mother residing in Chicago, I was overwhelmed with fear and uncertainty, being unfamiliar with New Jersey's criminal justice system. Upon reaching out to Peyrouton Law, they diligently represented my son throughout his legal challenge, alleviating my anxiety and providing much-needed reassurance. I wholeheartedly endorse and recommend this exceptional law firm.
Anji Gomez
Anji Gomez
El mejor abogado que pude aver encontrado cada audiencia me sentí confiada porque sabía que todo iba salir bien no ablo inglés y también mejor abogado en abla español súper bueno de confianza y pudo quitarme los cargos de los cuales estaba acusada lo recomiendo
jessica janicek
jessica janicek
Jesus Temple
Jesus Temple
I am very pleased with the choice I made, when I choose Peyrouton Law Firm. Allan is such a great person and listens to you carefully and applied pressure to your case.
Adrian Williams
Adrian Williams
Allan has the best criminal attorney in New Jersey, he's a man of his word. If you in need of a criminal attorney search no more, here's one right here Peyrouton Law Firm.......
Bruce Mandell
Bruce Mandell
Best lawyer there is hands down💙❤️💙
God is love
God is love
Alan is a great experience good attorney hard working man 👨 looking for a good criminal lawyer Alan is the boss ❤️