Downgrading Criminal Charges

Downgrading Criminal Charges
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.

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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 Hackensack criminal lawyers in our 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 128 reviews
Thomas W
Thomas W
03:21 20 Dec 20
My brother-in-law's friend was arrested for a disorderly person's offense. It sounds minor, but in some states other than NJ it is known as a misdemeanor. Often this type of offense is resolved as a municipal ordinance violation, a civil matter. The defendant still must pay a substantial fine, but the criminal charge is dismissed and the defendant has no criminal record. And the municipality gets their money. But in this case Alan Peyrouton had the case dismissed. My brother-in-law's friend had no criminal record, and paid no fine ! There is no better resolution of a case for a criminal defendant than to have a case dismissed. I would recommend Alan to anyone facing any criminal charge in NJ. And so would my brother-in-law and his friend.
Adam Massa
Adam Massa
20:04 07 Dec 20
I rarely submit reviews but this law firm deserves 5 stars!Samera & Alan were phenomenal! They are the perfect team to help when you're desperate because they listen and care and explain things patiently and clearly.I called 4 lawyers before I found Peyrouton Law and all 4 lawyers were rude and in a rush.From day one I got VIP treatment and they charged me less than all the other lawyers wanted to charge me. Alan got my case dismissed and is the most humble lawyer I ever met.Samera is an angel and I am very grateful for all of their assistance.I strongly recommend this law firm.
Osi Nwankwo
Osi Nwankwo
20:38 04 Dec 20
Very trust worthy firm. The perfect place for legal advice!
Dylan Wazz
Dylan Wazz
00:50 01 Dec 20
If you’re looking for a lawyer and are reading this review, then you can stop your search right here because Alan is without a doubt the best lawyer on the market. His secretary Samera was such a genuine person and you can tell they both actually care about their clients and take each and every case like it was one of their family members cases. If I could give them 10 stars I would. Absolutely a great law firm and I will be recommending them to anyone who digs themself into a sticky situation as I did. We’re all human and they most certainly bring that to life in court and make the prosecutor and judge see that. Thank you for all you guys did I greatly appreciate it!
T Shum
T Shum
00:20 24 Nov 20
Judy Lawrence
Judy Lawrence
00:59 20 Nov 20
My name is Ms. Judy Lawrence, and I am so excited about posting my opinion of Peyroutin Law; a law firm that is owned and operated by the two most persevering people in my opinion; Mr. Alan and Ms. Cerva. With all the intricate things they have to do to get ready for court, they always received me with smiles in their voice.I was faced with my first criminal case, and my sons told me they had, in their opinion, the perfect law firm. I was sceptical, because everything was done over the phone and email, do to the Pandemic, and I needed that personal touch.I must tell you, I never felt so confident about being in such a bad situation. Ms. Cerva took the time to read my emails and respond promptly; she always kept me informed every step of the way. Its hard for me to trust anyone with such a delicate situation, that I wasn't able to meet in person. Ms.Cerva (Paralegal) took the time to speak to me on the phone when I became anxious. I felt a closeness to her.To make a long story short, because I am a writer, and I can speak volumes about how when I spoke to the Lawyer, Mr. Alan, a feeling of calm and blessed assurance came over me. He told me what to expect, he asked me what I wanted, he treated me as if he knew the very essence of who I was, and he handle himself with such professional and knowledge.Its funny because, when everything was over and done, and I received a very favorable outcome, I kind of missed them. I don't ever want to have to face such a uncomfortable situation like that again. But if I do, God forbid, I have Mr. Alan and Ms. Cerva backing me up.Thank you
Jakeline Jaramillo
Jakeline Jaramillo
17:17 03 Nov 20
Mi experiencia fue muy buena. Debo resaltar un trato muy personalizado y sobre todo la calidad profesional y humana. Se ha planteado el caso y su defensa de la manera más oportuna y efectiva. Agradezco mucho su ayuda para resolverlo de manera exitosa
San Loore kailey Saint jean
San Loore kailey Saint jean
17:24 29 Oct 20
orphise saintjean
orphise saintjean
15:03 29 Oct 20
14:02 29 Oct 20
Obtuvo el mejor resultado para mi caso, muy recomendado!

A person extorts if he purposely threatens to:

a. Inflict bodily injury on or physically confine or restrain anyone or commit any other criminal offense;
b. Accuse anyone of an offense or cause charges of an offense to be instituted against any person;
c. Expose or publicize any secret or any asserted fact, whether true or false, tending to subject any person to hatred, contempt or ridicule, or to impair his credit or business repute;
d. Take or withhold action as an official, or cause an official to take or withhold action;
e. Bring about or continue a strike, boycott or other collective action, if the property is not demanded or received for the benefit of the group in whose interest the actor purports to act;
f. Testify or provide information or withhold testimony or information with respect to another’s legal claim or defense; or
g. Inflict any other harm which would not substantially benefit the actor but which is calculated to materially harm another person.

***It is an affirmative defense to prosecution based on paragraphs b, c, d or f that the property obtained was honestly claimed as restitution or indemnification for harm done in the circumstances or as lawful compensation for property or services.

Reasonable Articulable Suspicion

Reasonable suspicion is a “search” standard that applies in criminal law.

When a police officer conducts a warrantless search, and does not have probable cause to justify the search, the courts look to see if the police had
a “reasonable & articulable suspicion” for the search.

A mere “hunch” is not enough.

In other words, a police officer has to provide an acceptable explanation for the search.

United States Constitution

Amendment IV

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

NJSA - 2C:43-7.2.
Eligibility for parole;
persons convicted of certain violent crimes

a. A court imposing a sentence of incarceration for a crime of the first or second degree enumerated in subsection d. of this section shall fix a minimum term of 85% of the sentence imposed, during which the defendant shall not be eligible for parole.

b. The minimum term required by subsection a. of this section shall be fixed as a part of every sentence of incarceration imposed upon every conviction of a crime enumerated in subsection d. of this section, whether the sentence of incarceration is determined pursuant to N.J.S.2C:43-6, N.J.S.2C:43-7, N.J.S.2C:11-3 or any other provision of law, and shall be calculated based upon the sentence of incarceration actually imposed. The provisions of subsection a. of this section shall not be construed or applied to reduce the time that must be served before eligibility for parole by an inmate sentenced to a mandatory minimum period of incarceration. Solely for the purpose of calculating the minimum term of parole ineligibility pursuant to subsection a. of this section, a sentence of life imprisonment shall be deemed to be 75 years.

c. Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary and in addition to any other sentence imposed, a court imposing a minimum period of parole ineligibility of 85 percent of the sentence pursuant to this section shall also impose a five-year term of parole supervision if the defendant is being sentenced for a crime of the first degree, or a three-year term of parole supervision if the defendant is being sentenced for a crime of the second degree. The term of parole supervision shall commence upon the completion of the sentence of incarceration imposed by the court pursuant to subsection a. of this section unless the defendant is serving a sentence of incarceration for another crime at the time he completes the sentence of incarceration imposed pursuant to subsection a., in which case the term of parole supervision shall commence immediately upon the defendant’s release from incarceration. During the term of parole supervision the defendant shall remain in release status in the community in the legal custody of the Commissioner of the Department of Corrections and shall be supervised by the State Parole Board as if on parole and shall be subject to the provisions and conditions

Felony Degree

Prison & Fines



1st-degree felony charges in NJ are reserved for the most serious criminal offenses. Prison terms start at a minimum of 10 years in prison.


2nd-degree felony charges carry 5-10 yrs in prison.
These charges can often be “downgraded” to 3rd or 4th-degree crimes.


3rd-degree felony charges carry 3-5 years.
You have a good shot at PTI if you are charged with a 3rd-degree.


4th-degree felony charges carry up to 18 months in jail. These cases can get “remanded” to a lower court. In this way, you will be out of “felony” danger.