Criminal charges in California break down into two primary categories: misdemeanors and felonies. For some crimes, however,, a prosecutor might have the discretion of charging you with a felony or a misdemeanor – depending on the circumstances surrounding the alleged offense. Criminal charges that can be filed as either felonies or misdemeanors are called wobblers.
Common Wobbler Offenses in California
Misdemeanor offenses usually carry less severe penalties than felonies in California. Common criminal offenses that are wobblers under state law include:
- Driving under the influence
- Sexual battery
- Child endangerment
- Grand theft
- Spousal battery
- Assault with a deadly weapon
- Vehicular manslaughter
- Lewd acts with a minor
Some crimes are only charged as felonies. These crimes generally carry the potential for state prison sentences. They are known as “straight felony” charges. Others are only charged as misdemeanors and generally carry a penalty of no more than one year in jail.
If the crime you allegedly committed is a wobbler, it is crucial that you seek legal advice immediately. Keeping the charge as a misdemeanor could mean the difference between a few months in county jail or spending substantial time in state prison.
What Factors Do Prosecutors Consider When Deciding How To Charge a Wobbler Offense?
There are no statutory factors that prosecutors must consider when deciding how to charge wobblers. Therefore, prosecutors use their discretion when making the decision.
However, most prosecutors follow the guidelines and standards for charging wobbler crimes set forth by the California District Attorneys Association (CDAA). Factors the CDAA recommends prosecutors consider when deciding between a felony or misdemeanor charge for a wobbler include:
- The defendant’s criminal record
- The severity of the crime
- The strength of the evidence
- Whether the defendant will be eligible for parole
- The defendant’s age
- Whether the defendant cooperated with law enforcement officers
- The probability that the defendant will continue to commit criminal acts
A wobbler can be reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor at various stages of a criminal case. The prosecutor can reduce a wobbler from a felony to a misdemeanor when charging the crime. Wobblers can also be reduced from felonies to misdemeanors at the felony preliminary hearing, at the sentencing hearing, or after a defendant completes formal probation and petitions the court for a wobbler reduction.
Can a Judge Reduce a Wobbler from a Felony to a Misdemeanor Charge in California?
Judges also have the discretion to reduce a felony wobbler to a misdemeanor charge. The judge does not have to follow the recommendations of the prosecutor.
Judges often consider mitigating factors when determining whether to reduce wobblers. Mitigating factors the judge might consider include:
- The defendant’s criminal history
- Whether the defendant voluntarily admitted the crime early in the criminal process
- The defendant’s willingness and actions to pay restitution to the victim
- How a defendant conducted themselves in prior cases while on probation or parole
- The defendant’s actions to avoid causing harm to other people or property
- The role the defendant played in the criminal act
An experienced San Diego criminal defense attorney understands how to argue mitigating factors to convince a judge that you should be charged with a misdemeanor instead of a felony. A compelling argument at a preliminary or sentencing hearing could help you avoid the consequences of a felony conviction.
Why It’s Important To Avoid Felony Charges for Wobbler Offenses in California
You face more severe consequences for a felony conviction compared to a misdemeanor conviction. For example, being convicted of a felony can result in losing certain rights, including the right to own and possess a firearm. Felony convictions could also result in the loss of some professional licenses.
Felony convictions can result in longer periods of incarceration, including state prison sentences. Felony probation can also be more restrictive and costly than summary probation for a misdemeanor conviction. In addition, a felony conviction can make it much more difficult to obtain employment, find a place to live, or qualify for government aid.
What Is a Wobblette in a California?
A wobblette is similar to a wobbler. However, a wobblette is a crime that can be charged as a misdemeanor or an infraction.
An infraction is a non-criminal offense. Infractions are punished with fines instead of jail time. Therefore, reducing a misdemeanor charge to an infraction can avoid the possibility of jail time for a conviction. Additionally, since infractions are non-criminal offenses, they do not result in a criminal record.
The important difference between wobblers and wobblettes is the defendant’s consent to reducing the charges. A defendant must consent to a wobblette being reduced from a misdemeanor offense to an infraction.
The reason for requiring the defendant’s consent is that the defendant gives up the right to a jury trial and a public defender when the charge is reduced to an infraction. Most people agree to give up these rights because they can pay a small fine to resolve the infraction instead of facing jail time for a misdemeanor conviction.
Schedule a Free Consultation With Our San Diego Criminal Defense Lawyers
Facing criminal charges is a serious matter. You need skilled legal advice to help you fight the charges. Contact our law firm Blair Defense Criminal Lawyers by calling 619) 357-4977 to discuss your case with an experienced San Diego criminal defense attorney.