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Lindsay Lohan Could Dodge Felony Bullet Today

4/22/2011 9:00 AM PDT BY TMZ STAFF

There's a way Lindsay Lohan could avoid going to trial for felony grand theft -- and it all hinges on whether her lawyer uses a magic number -- 17 --  during today's preliminary hearing.

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TMZ did some digging ... and there's a law that is commonly used to reduce felony charges to misdemeanors -- and it's used every day in court.  It's California Penal Code, Section 17(b).  Under the law, the judge has the ability to reduce a felony to a misdemeanor at the end of a preliminary hearing if the offense is relatively minor and the defendant is not a hardened criminal with a long record.

Fact is ... it's done everyday, and Lindsay's judge -- Stephanie Sautner -- has routinely exercised this power, according to courthouse sources.

Fact is, in the greater scheme of things, Lindsay's DUI convictions do not make her a serious criminal, and the charge of stealing a necklace is no big whoop.

All Shawn Holley has to do is say the magic words after today's preliminary hearing testimony -- "Your honor, I move that you reduce the felony charge to a misdemeanor under Penal Code 17(B)."

And if the charge is reduced, prison time is off the table and it's likely the whole thing would be settled as a probation violation.

This post is rated NC-17(b).

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