Criminal Defense in Ventura County
What is a Wobbler?

What is a Wobbler?

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, request a free consultation with our experienced criminal defense attorney at The Law Offices of Jarrod M. Wilfert today.