What is an Esteybar motion?

An Esteybar motion is a motion to reduce a charge from a felony to a misdemeanor. The motion gets its name from the California Supreme Court case of Esteybar v. Municipal Court (1971) 5 Cal.3d 120.

A court may reduce a felony charge to a misdemeanor in its sound discretion. (Esteybar v. Municipal Court (1971) 5 Cal.3d 120.) “When the court grants probation to a defendant and at the time of granting probation, or on application of the defendant or probation officer thereafter, the court declares the offense to be a misdemeanor.” (Pen. Code, § 17, subd. (b)(3) [bold added].)

The Court typically will consider the person’s background, service and ties to the community, any prior crimes, likelihood of re-offending, and the conduct alleged in the current case.

A good argument to make if the case is weak is to say that the Legislature made these types of cases either a felony or a misdemeanor, and because this case falls on the weaker side of the spectrum, the Court should reduce it to a misdemeanor.