Wobblers: What You Need to Know in California

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Have you ever heard of a wobbler offense? It’s a term used in the California criminal justice system to describe a crime that could be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. These types of offenses “wobble” between two classifications, which gives courts and prosecutors more flexibility in determining how to handle them.

The decision on how to charge the offense lies with the District Attorney, who will evaluate the allegations, the relevant statutes, and the severity of the offense. The DA will consider factors such as the defendant’s criminal history and the circumstances surrounding the offense to determine whether to charge the offense as a felony or misdemeanor.

The flexibility of wobbler offenses allows courts to handle a wide range of criminal activities. Crimes such as vehicular manslaughter, assault, sex crimes, disturbing the peace, fraud, battery, and domestic violence are all considered wobbler offenses in California.  In California, ,most DUIs are misdemeanors.  However, if it is a fourth or subsequent DUI offense within a ten-year period or if another person is injured as a result of the DUI, then the DA may charge the offense as a misdemeanor or felony – aka a “wobbler.”

How Do Courts View Wobbler Offenses?

Under California Penal Code section 1170, the court has discretion in issuing punishments that are “…proportionate to the seriousness of the offense.” When a crime is charged as a wobbler offense, the court has the option to treat it as a misdemeanor, felony, or infraction during several points in the legal process.

At the preliminary hearing, the DA can decide to handle the case as a misdemeanor or a felony. During plea bargaining, a defense attorney can negotiate with the prosecutor to arrange a plea bargain that results in less stringent prosecution, such as the charge being reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor. During sentencing, a judge can apply felony sentencing to a misdemeanor charge or reduce a felony charge to a misdemeanor.

After a convicted offender has completed their sentence, they may apply for expungement. Through this process, a court can remove a felony conviction from a person’s criminal record, leaving the record showing as not guilty or dismissed.

Halley J. Peters can assist in ensuring the pertinent facts of your case are made clear to the prosecution at the critical stages of your case.  This improves your chances of having a felony wobbler charged as a misdemeanor, resulting in lesser penalties.  Contact Halley today at (949) 519-4955 for a free and confidential consultation today.  No concern is too small.

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