There are two main types of crimes in California: misdemeanors and felonies. While a misdemeanor is not as serious as a felony, a conviction can still result in harsh criminal penalties, such as a lengthy jail sentence and fines worth hundreds or thousands of dollars. On the other hand, a felony conviction is punishable by incarceration in a state prison and fines worth tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.
However, there are other crimes known as “wobblers,” which can be punished as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Ultimately, the prosecutor determines whether to charge a wobbler offense as either a felony or misdemeanor.
Common types of wobbler crimes in California include:
- Assault with a deadly weapon
- Grand theft
- Child endangerment
- Making criminal threats
- Carrying a loaded firearm in public
- Sexual battery
- Spousal battery
- Statutory rape
- Lewd acts with a minor
- Vehicular manslaughter
A wobbler offense can be reduced to a misdemeanor when the prosecutor charges the defendant, at a felony preliminary hearing, when the defendant is sentenced, or after the defendant has finished formal probation and filed a petition to reduce a felony offense to a misdemeanor (if they were not sentenced to prison). In general, prosecutors decide how to charge a wobbler based on the California District Attorney Association’s (CDAA) Uniform Crime Charging Standards.
The following factors are considered by the prosecutors, according to the CDAA:
- The seriousness of the offense
- The defendant's criminal history
- The defendant’s age
- The strength and weaknesses of the prosecution’s case against the defendant
- The defendant’s willingness to cooperate with police officers
- If the defendant is likely to be a repeat offender
- If the defendant qualifies for probation
- Other mitigating circumstances (e.g., first-time offender, played a minor role in the offense, used caution to avoid harming individuals or property, etc.)
Additionally, there are offenses known as “wobblettes,” which can be charged or sentenced as either a misdemeanor or an infraction. An infraction is not a criminal offense, which only carries a maximum fine of $250 and no jail term. Since an infraction cannot lead to a trial, a defendant must agree to be charged with a wobblette and pay a small fine.
If you have been arrested for a misdemeanor or felony offense in Santa Rosa, call the Law Offices of Evan E. Zelig, P.C. at (707) 418-5352 or fill out our online contact form today to request a free consultation.