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What is a Wobbler?

If you’ve been accused of a crime in California, you probably started surfing the web for answers. Your search history probably has a number of different searches related to the alleged crime, probably something like this:

  • What are the penalties for XYZ?
  • Will I go to jail if I’m convicted of XYZ?
  • Will I be put on probation for XYZ?
  • Is XYZ a Wobbler?
  • What is a Wobbler?

After some research, you may have learned that you are facing a wobbler. But what does that mean?

The Difference Between Felonies and Misdemeanors

In California and the United States, crimes are categorized into two primary types: felonies and misdemeanors. Before addressing what a wobbler is, it Is important to understand the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony.

A misdemeanor is usually referred to as a less-serious offense that can be punishable by a fine of up to one thousand dollars and up to one year incarceration.

A felony, on the other hand, is a more serious crime that is typically accompanied by far more severe punishments, including long stays in state prisons.

Defining Wobblers in California

While both felonies and misdemeanors can have serious impacts and go on a person’s criminal record, there are a few types of charges that are considered wobblers. This simply means that the crime can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.

The term “wobbler” signifies that the offense has the flexibility to “wobble” between the two classifications: felony and misdemeanor.

If an offense was committed and it is labeled as a wobbler offense, that offense may be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the facts and circumstances of the case.

Determining if a Wobbler will be charged as a Misdemeanor or Felony

In California, the criteria for a wobbler offense are outlined in the California Penal Code. Although there is criteria for classifying a crime as a wobbler, it varies depending on the offense and several factors, such as the severity of the offense, the defendant’s criminal history, and the overall safety of the public.

There are cases in which the district attorney has the ability to determine whether a wobbler offense should be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. Some factors that may sway the district attorney include:

  • Statutory Designation
  • Prosecutorial Discretion
  • Aggravating and Mitigating Factors
  • Sentencing Guidelines
  • Criminal History

It is important to understand that even if a wobbler offense is initially charged as a felony, it may be possible for the defense attorney to negotiate with the prosecutor for the charge to be reduced from a felony to misdemeanor, which could lead to far less severe consequences.

Facing a Wobbler Charge in California?

If you’re facing a wobbler charge in California, you should speak to an attorney about your options. If you have any questions or need assistance with a legal matter in the Bay Area or Sacramento, The Nieves Law Firm may be able to help. Feel free to contact us to schedule a complimentary consultation to see how we can help you fight your wobbler charge.

Author Bio

Jo-Anna Nieves is the Founder and Managing Attorney of the Nieves Law Firm, an Oakland criminal defense law firm she created in 2013. With more than 11 years of experience in criminal defense, she has zealously represented clients in a wide range of legal matters, including DUIs, domestic violence, expungement, federal crimes, juvenile law, sex crimes, violent crimes, and other criminal charges.

Jo-Anna received her Juris Doctor from the Florida State University College of Law and is a member of the State Bar of California. She has received numerous accolades for her work, including being named a Super Lawyer Rising Star in 2019, and the #12 Fastest Growing Law Firm in the U.S. by Law Firm 500 in 2019.

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