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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 235 reviews
Greg Mick
Greg Mick
Alan is truly a great attorney and a great man, he helped me with things I didn’t think could be fixable.
Jaisonnah M
Jaisonnah M
I had a difficult case but Alan was able to get it settled and dismissed at a reasonable price.
Cathy Denis
Cathy Denis
I would highly recommend Alan. He was very thorough and compassionate.
Greg Denis
Greg Denis
I hired peyrouton law to represent me in three cases I had recently alen helped me through the hole thing he was there for me every time I called and explained what was going and what he was doing I wouldhighly recommend him he was the best attorney I have ever had
Aaron McCormick
Aaron McCormick
I want to Personally Thank Alan at Peyrouton Lawfirm, LLC for his Professionalism, and Dedication in representing me. Not being from NJ, I’m So Glad I chose this Lawfirm to represent me in my Criminal Case. He was thorough from Start to Finish and the case was Dismissed. Thanks Again Alan at Peyrouton Lawfirm, LLC!!!
Sergio Herrera
Sergio Herrera
I was in a dire situation and needed rapid legal aid. Alan managed to help me get my case dismissed and I can move on with my life. He is a great attorney, reasonable prices, ethical, and not afraid to be straightforward with you about your legal manners. I strongly recommend to hire him. I’ve looked up to him since I met him. Alan is fair and understanding and very professional. He’s a really good lawyer !! He has a cool office by the way!
Cynthia Faustin
Cynthia Faustin
I encountered Alan when my back was against the wall. So many other lawyers were charging me an arm and a leg and I just could not afford it. Then Alan came in and helped me out tremendously. He was the first lawyer that I felt ACTUALLY listened to me and had my best interests in mind. From our very first conversation, I felt at ease. He and I were able to compromise on a payment and I felt very certain that I had found the right lawyer. Alan was able to get my charges dismissed and I will forever be grateful to him for his hard work. Thank you, thank you, and THANK YOU! God Bless you Alan!
Svitlana Kosturko
Svitlana Kosturko
Peyrouton law is a great company to seek a responsible and helpful professional assistance. The results and outcomes were positive on my end due to Peyrouton Law firm. I recommend others to be refered and seek help with this Firm, all the information and feedback based my personal recent experience.
Yang L
Yang L
I highly recommend Alan to anyone seeking a lawyer who is not only a legal expert but also a compassionate ally in the pursuit of justice. His dedication, professionalism, and extensive experience set him apart as a true advocate for those navigating the challenging waters of domestic violence cases. Thank you, Alan, for your exceptional service and unwavering commitment to justice.
Tim Kosturko
Tim Kosturko
Allen took care of our legal issue professionally and quickly. Moreover, he is a decent man. Highly recommend him.