Criminal matters are generally thought of in two or three categories: Felonies, Misdemeanors, and Infractions.1 Generally, infractions are offenses that are punishable by a fine but not jail time, such as a speeding or parking ticket. Felonies and misdemeanors are labeled by numbers regarding the level of crime and this letter may indicate the level of punishment assigned to the crime. The most significant issue for a defendant is to wind up with a Felony conviction as this may cause loss of a job or prevent employment. Many employers run criminal background checks and will not hire felons for a variety of reasons. This blog explores ways to avoid a felony conviction if these are among your charges.
The first is Alternate Misdemeanor Sentencing, commonly referred to as “AMS”. This is a unique statutory remedy in Indiana that allows someone with a felony to be convicted as a misdemeanor one time in their life. This may be at the time of sentencing, completion of probation, or within a certain prescribed period of time. A key in the plea and sentencing may be to obtain the agreement of the prosecutor that if all terms of probation are followed and there are no new criminal acts, they will not object. AMS is retroactive so this means the felony, upon granting of AMS, never existed.
The second is the conviction of a lesser included offense. For instance, the crime of criminal recklessness starts as a misdemeanor and then increases for certain more dangerous components of the crime, such as if a firearm is involved. In these cases, depending on a variety of factors, such as if the victim objects, the defendant was disrespectful to the police officer, or the defendant has no prior criminal history, it may be possible to reach a plea agreement with prosecutor to allow you to plea to the lesser version of the crime that is a misdemeanor. Although somewhat technical, it may be possible to plead guilty to a different crime that has the same elements.
The third is the dismissal of some of the felony charges (normally there are more than one Count of criminal activity) and a plea to the misdemeanor. While atypical, good defense attorneys look at the weakness of a case, do discovery, and take a variety of other measures to help with advocating to the prosecutor why a plea to a crime that is not a felony makes sense.
Ultimately, if these techniques fail and there is a felony plea and conviction by bench or criminal trial, then with most crimes after a number of years, there is the potential for an expungement. While this is not the optimal situation, it does provide a measure to address the once lifetime felony consequences with conviction.
We hope this blog helps you understand the complexities associated with a felony charge, the key role of defense counsel, and tools available to potentially result in a misdemeanor conviction. A felony carries with it significant life-long consequences that should be avoided if possible. This blog was written by attorneys at Ciyou & Dixon, P.C. who handle serious criminal matters, from DUI to gun crimes to criminal appeals across the State. This blog is provided for general informational purposes and is not intended to provide legal advice or be a solicitation for services. It is an advertisement.
- An infraction is quasi-criminal and quasi-civil and not, strictly speaking, a criminal matter.