It is possible to get a felony conviction reduced to a misdemeanor in Nevada, but only if the terms of the original plea bargain specifically call for this to happen upon successful completion of the sentence. Otherwise, unlike the law in some other states, no procedural rule in Nevada allows a judge to reduce a felony to a misdemeanor later on.
Below our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys discuss:
1. What is the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor in Nevada?
All crimes in Nevada are categorized as either misdemeanors, gross misdemeanors, or felonies.
The least serious Nevada crime is a misdemeanor. Examples of common misdemeanors include:
- shoplifting (if the merchandise is less than $1,200)
- breaching the peace
- drunk driving (as long as it is not your third DUI conviction within a seven-year time-span, or that no one got seriously hurt or killed)
- violations of traffic law (traffic tickets)
The maximum jail sentence for a misdemeanor conviction is six months, and the maximum fine is $1,000. A Las Vegas court may impose either jail, fines, or both.1 In some cases, misdemeanor charges may be dismissed pursuant to a plea bargain.
1.2. Gross Misdemeanors
A gross misdemeanor in Nevada is more serious than a straight misdemeanor but is not as serious as a felony. Examples of gross misdemeanors include:
- indecent exposure (first offense)
- stalking (second or subsequent offense)
- open or gross lewdness (first offense)
- false imprisonment (as long as you were not a prisoner, did not use a deadly weapon, or acted to avoid arrest)
- marijuana possession of one oz. or less (third offense)
The maximum jail sentence for a gross misdemeanor conviction is 364 days, and the maximum fine is $2,000. A Las Vegas judge can order you either to go to jail, to pay fines, or to do both.2 Depending on the case you may do probation in lieu of incarceration.
A felony in Nevada is the gravest type of crime. Felonies, in turn, are divided into the following five subcategories (ranging from most serious to least serious):
- category A felonies, such as murder or sexual assault
- category B felonies, such as voluntary manslaughter or robbery
- category C felonies, such as violating an extended restraining order or receiving stolen property (if the value is at least $5,000 but less than $25,000)
- category D felonies, such as unpaid casino markers or forgery
- category E felonies, such as possessing drug paraphernalia or gang recruitment (if you are an adult)
The punishment depends on the class of felony. Obviously category A felonies in Las Vegas carry the harshest punishments, including life in Nevada State prison or even the death penalty in Nevada. Meanwhile, category E felonies in Las Vegas usually guarantee just probation with no prison.3
In Nevada, attempts to commit a category C, D, or E felony are called “wobblers“, which can be either felonies or gross misdemeanors. If you are convicted of a wobbler, the judge has the discretion to decide which one to sentence you to.4 Examples of wobblers in Nevada include:
- Attempts to commit burglary
- Attempts to commit assault with a deadly weapon
- Attempts to commit fraud
2. Can a felony charge get reduced to a misdemeanor?
If you are charged with a felony, your lawyer’s first line of attack is to attempt to get the charge dismissed outright. Though if prosecutors insist on pressing charges, then your defense attorney would try to negotiate a plea bargain whereby the felony gets reduced to a gross misdemeanor or a misdemeanor.
Whenever you plead to or are found guilty of a Nevada wobbler – which is an attempt to commit a category C, D, or E felony – the judge chooses whether to sentence you for a felony or a gross misdemeanor. In making this decision the judge considers several factors:
- the facts of the case
- the nature of the offense
- your personal history
- your criminal history
Remember that you never have to accept a plea bargain. Anyone charged with a felony is entitled to a jury trial, where the D.A. has the burden to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.5
3. Can a felony plea get reduced to a misdemeanor at a later time?
Yes, but only if the terms of the original plea bargain specifically call for the felony to be reduced to a misdemeanor (or gross misdemeanor) upon successful completion of the sentence. Otherwise, unlike the California system, there is no procedural rule in Nevada that allows a judge to reduce a felony to a misdemeanor later on.
Note that if you plead to a felony, you may file a motion with the court after you have been convicted to withdraw the plea. Though courts rarely grant this motion unless it would be manifest injustice to sustain the conviction.6
4. What is the purpose of trying to get a felony reduced to a misdemeanor?
Being a convicted felon in Nevada brings several disadvantages. Among them are:
- Prospective employers may disqualify you if you have felonies on your background check.
- Various state licensing boards may deny certification to you if you have been convicted of felonies.
- You may not possess, own or use firearms.7
- You may not serve on juries (unless your rights get restored, such as through record sealing).8
- Having a felony count as a strike on Nevada’s equivalent of the Three Strikes Law.9
- Felonies cannot be sealed from your criminal record for at least two-to-ten years after the case is closed. There are some felonies such as sexual offenses that can never be sealed. Plus, sealing a felony record does not restore your right to bear arms.
So having a felony reduced to a misdemeanor would avoid all of these problems. Furthermore, most misdemeanors may be sealed from a criminal record only one or two years after the case has closed (though the wait is seven years for DUI and battery domestic violence), and the waiting time for gross misdemeanors is two years.10 Read more about sealing criminal records.
- NRS 193.150.
- NRS 193.140.
- NRS 193.130; see also LaChance v. State, (2014) 130 Nev. 263, 321 P.3d 919; see also Breault v. State, (2000) 116 Nev. 311, 996 P.2d 888.
- NRS 193.330.
- NRS 193.153. NRS 175.
- NRS 176.165.
- NRS 202.360.
- NRS 179.285.
- NRS 207.010.
- NRS 179.245; NRS 179.255.