In California, a “wobbler” is a crime that can be punished
as either a misdemeanor or a felony. While the prosecutor decides whether
to charge a wobbler as either option, judges ultimately have final say.
A wobbler can be reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor during various
stages of the criminal justice process. First, when the prosecutor charges
the offense. Next, when the defendant is held to answer at a felony preliminary
hearing. Then, at the time of sentencing. Lastly, after the defendant
has completed formal probation and filed a petition to reduce a felony
conviction to a misdemeanor.
While state law does not set forth any standards regarding how the prosecution
should charge a wobbler, prosecutors typically decide how to charge such
a crime in accordance with Uniform Crime Charging Standards published
by the California District Attorneys Association (CDAA). Ultimately, it
is the prosecutor’s discretion how to decide a wobbler.
The CDAA recommends that the prosecution consider the following factors:
- The seriousness of the criminal offense
- The defendant’s prior criminal record
- The defendant’s age
- The likelihood that the defendant will commit another crime
- The defendant’s cooperation with law enforcement
- The strength of the prosecution’s case
- Whether the defendant is eligible for probation
Judges are not bound by how prosecutors decide to charge the crime. Instead,
they are free to reduce a wobbler felony to a misdemeanor if there are
“circumstances in mitigation” of the crime. Mitigating circumstances
are those which argue in favor of a judge being more lenient.
The mitigating factors include, but are not limited to, the following:
- The defendant has no previous—or only an insignificant—criminal record
- The defendant played a minor or passive role in the criminal offense
- The defendant voluntarily acknowledged wrongdoing at an early stage of
the criminal process
- The defendant used caution to avoid harming people or property
- The defendant made restitution to the victim
- The defendant’s previous performance on probation or parole was satisfactory
Some of the most common wobbler offenses in California include the following:
Additionally, some crimes in California are considered “wobblettes.”
This type of offense can be charged or sentenced as either a misdemeanor
or an infraction.
Common “wobblette” offenses in the state include:
- Disturbing the peace
- Driving without a license
- Driving with a suspended or revoked license
- Failure to appear for a traffic violation
- Criminal trespass
- Exhibition of speed
Before a wobblette can be charged as an infraction, the defendant needs
to agree to be charged with a misdemeanor. The reason is because an individual
charged with an infraction is not entitled to a trial by jury, nor entitled
to legal counsel.
If you have been charged with a California wobbler offense in Ventura County,
free consultation with our experienced
criminal defense attorney at The Law Offices of Jarrod M. Wilfert today.