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California Penal Code Section 17(d): Reducing Misdemeanors to Infractions

Douglas Parker

Got a minor criminal charge in California? Don’t sweat it! California Penal Code Section 17(d) gives you a second chance. This law lets you get your misdemeanor charge downgraded to a lesser offense, like a traffic ticket. Sounds pretty good, right?

But there’s more to it than meets the eye. Understanding the details of this law is key to making it work for you. So, if you’re facing a misdemeanor in California, get yourself informed about Section 17(d). It could potentially save you a lot of time, money, and stress.

California Penal Code Section 17(D)

First things first, let’s understand our main subject today. In simple terms, under California Penal Code 17(d), people with specific misdemeanor charges may get them changed to infractions [1].

This rule is an important chance for folks worried about jail or a lasting criminal record. If used, it can turn a misdemeanor into a less harsh offense [2] and stop the far-reaching effects of a criminal charge.

This, however, does not mean that all misdemeanors can be reclassified as provided for in this code’s section. It is only those offenses that possess distinct criteria that can be considered for reclassification, especially considering that there’s usually no defendant or probation officer in misdemeanor cases.

In determining whether a misdemeanor offense qualifies for this relief [3], the judge takes into account both internal and external factors: What are the circumstances underlying the offense, and how much of an impact would reclassification have on the person and society? And, as we all know, the court declares the offense and the outcome in the end.

This all-encompassing evaluation seeks a happy medium between holding someone accountable for their actions and the potential for rehabilitation. Still, as part of this process, the judge must scrutinize the definitions of crime so that punishment is tempered by the possibility of redemption.

Besides, it is necessary to emphasize that reclassification is not an automatic procedure[4]. Those who wish to be reclassified must go before the court and make a strong showing that they have been growing and working on their rehabilitation.

Besides the provision of documents from rehabilitative programs, completion of community service or any other proactive ways to solve initial causes that led to a misdemeanor are also helpful.

When it comes to the legal system, California Penal Code 17(d) is concrete proof the state believes in fairness, and that people shouldn’t have to spend the rest of their lives being remembered only for one mistake.

The law demonstrates the potential for positive change and offers a way out for people. This gives individuals a chance to start anew, unburdened by the infinite burden of showing a criminal record[5].

Understanding Penal Code Section 17(d)(2)

One of the key aspects of this section is the subsection CA penal code 17(d)(2), which lists specific offenses that can be reclassified. These offenses include, but are not limited to:

  • Traffic violations
  • Petty theft
  • Simple drug possession
  • Public intoxication
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Trespassing
  • Disturbing the peace

Anyone charged with one of these offenses might have a chance to have their crime reclassified as an infraction instead. We’ll delve into each of these aspects shortly, so stay tuned for a deeper understanding!

Why You Have A Choice Between Misdemeanors and Infractions

ca penal code 17 d 2

In California, the law gives people the option to be charged with a misdemeanor offense or to ask for a classification to an infraction complaint.

Your decision can largely influence the possible penalties and results of a case. Through reclassification, someone might have a chance to escape the drawbacks of a misdemeanor conviction such as poor job prospects and limited housing opportunities.

Misdemeanor Offenses Eligible for Reduction to Infractions in California

The range and type of misdemeanor offenses that can be reduced under this penal code section cover several categories. Let’s take a closer look:

  • Traffic Violations

In accordance with California Penal Code Section 17(d), traffic violations are one of the most common types of offenses that can be reclassified.

Under this heading is a broad spectrum of offenses: from speeding tickets to running stop signs or red lights, and illegal U-Turns. By reclassifying these offenses as infractions, individuals can avoid potential consequences and more severe ones also associated with misdemeanor convictions.

  • Petty Theft

Petty theft, which involves stealing low-value items, is another category of offense that can be reclassified under Section 17(d).

Some common examples include shoplifting small merchandise. By taking advantage of the option provided, people charged can escape from these consequences and have a misdemeanor charge taken off their records, like jail time, state prison, or a permanent criminal record.

  • Simple Drug Possession

Under Section 17(d), simple drug possession[6], especially for small amounts, is another misdemeanor that can be reduced to an infraction.

Instead of facing potential incarceration and the lasting stain of their criminal records, individuals accused of simple drug possession have the opportunity to downgrade their offenses as a means of escape from such terrible consequences.

  • Public Intoxication

Public intoxication is an offense that could qualify for reclassification under the penal code section 17(d) of California. This commonly happens when a person ends up intoxicated in public and starts acting in a way that endangers themselves or others.

By electing to have this transgression reclassified as an infraction, those who may do so can escape the stigma and lasting disadvantages brought on by being deemed a misdemeanor offender.

  • Disorderly Conduct

Another crime that may be reduced to a mere infraction is disorderly behavior. Disorderly conduct generally means bad behavior that disrupts public peace.

By applying for reclassification, a person arrested for disorderly conduct can escape the harm done by a permanent criminal record and the lasting repercussions that come with it.

  • Trespassing

Under Section 17(d), trespassing is replenishable to the extent allowed by law. Whether it involves entering someone’s property without permission or refusing to vacate a property after being asked to leave[7], trespassing charges can carry serious legal repercussions.

Working with a lawyer on your trespassing case to request reclassification, these are possible ways of mitigating the long-term harm that a misdemeanor conviction can cause.

  • Disturbing the Peace

If the offense of disturbing the peace falls under Section 17(d), it can be reclassified. If this offense is an infraction, it might cover behavior that unreasonably disrupts the peace of others or public spaces.

What You Need for Reclassification Under Section 17(d)(2)

If you think that your case might warrant a lower punishment under CA penal code 17 (d)(2), it is important to prepare the necessary evidence or any other proof required to support your petition.

By communicating with legal professionals who have worked in the complicated world of criminal defense practice and know California’s criminal code intimately, you can navigate the process and increase your chances of a successful reclassification.

Contact the Manshoory Law Group

If you need assistance understanding and navigating California Penal Code Section 17(d), the Manshoory Law Group is here to help. Our experienced attorneys specialize in criminal defense and have a deep understanding of the California legal system.

Contact us today to schedule a consultation and learn how we can help you protect your rights and achieve the best possible outcome for your case!


  1. Parker, D. (2024, March 7). Infraction vs Misdemeanor: What’s The Difference? | Manshoory Law. Manshoory Law Group, APC.
  2. Parker, D. (2023, December 24). Understanding misdemeanor probation in California | Manshoory Law. Manshoory Law Group, APC.
  3. 2018 Chapter 8. (2018, October 26). United States Sentencing Commission.
  4. California Penal Code 17: Classification & reclassification of crimes. (2024, March 26). Manshoory Law Group, APC.
  5. Manshoory, S. (2017, February 13). How do my prior convictions affect my current case? | Manshoory Law. Manshoory Law Group, APC.
  6. Manshoory, S. (2022, June 16). Drug Possession in California | Law, Penalties & Defenses |Manshoory Law. Manshoory Law Group, APC.
  7. Law section. (n.d.).