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Wobbler Offenses in California

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
  • Burglary
  • Child endangerment
  • Making criminal threats
  • Forgery
  • Carrying a loaded firearm in public
  • Sexual battery
  • Spousal battery
  • Statutory rape
  • Lewd acts with a minor
  • Stalking
  • 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.