What You Need to Know About Wobbler Crimes in California

Wobbler crimes are criminal offenses that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony depending on certain conditions and whether the prosecutor chooses to file it as such. Here is everything you need to know about wobbler crimes in California.

What is a Wobbler Crime?

A wobbler crime is an offense that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony depending on what the prosecutor files it as. Prosecuting a crime as either a felony or misdemeanor can greatly impact the severity of the charge.

What is a Misdemeanor Crime?

In California, a misdemeanor sentence means that the sentence cannot be longer than a year or be located within the state prison. There are two types of misdemeanors. First, standard misdemeanors can lead to up to 6 months in county jail or up to a $1,000 fine. In contrast, an aggravated misdemeanor can lead to up to 364 days in county jail and a fine greater than $1,000.

Examples of Misdemeanor Crimes Include:

  • Shoplifting
  • Petty Theft
  • DUI without injury

Related: California Theft Laws

What is a Felony Crime?

In California, a felony crime can lead to more than a year in state prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000. Moreover, a judge could order felony probation to limit jail time.

Examples of Felony Crimes That Cannot Be Reduced to Misdemeanors Include:

  • Murder
  • Rape

Related: Criminal Defense FAQs in California

Examples of Felonies that Can Be Reduced to Misdemeanors:

  • Forgery
  • Vandalism

How are Wobbler Crimes Determined?

In the California legal system, there is no specific set of rules that the prosecution must follow when determining whether a crime can be a wobbler. However, prosecutors can consider these factors when determining the charge they would like to pursue:

  • Cooperation with police
  • Defendant’s age
  • Defendant’s prior criminal record
  • Eligibility of probation
  • Strength of the evidence in the case
  • Remorse of the defendant
  • The severity of injury and harm caused in the case

Even if the prosecutor chooses to not consider these factors, the judge can change the type of sentence during the case as well. Specifically, prosecutors tend to focus on the amount of evidence and severity of harm when considering which charge to file. However, it is in the hands of both the judge and the prosecutor to determine the type of sentence, if necessary.

When Does the Judge Become Involve in Determining Wobbler Crimes?

Penal Code 17 of California Law allows the judge to change the sentence type when necessary. The judge tends to make this choice at the preliminary hearing, sentence timing, or after felony probation is completed. Therefore, there is a multitude of opportunities to see the charge reduced to a misdemeanor. Judges consider “mitigating” factors that help reduce the sentence charge. These include the defendant’s age, the severity of harm caused, and if there were passive participants such as minors.

Can a Defendant Petition the Felony Charge?

Yes, a defendant in the state of California can petition a felony conviction to be changed to a misdemeanor with the help of an attorney.

Can a Wobbler Crime be Expunged from the Defendant’s Record?

Yes, oftentimes wobbler crimes can be expunged from the defendant’s record in the state of California. Expunged records occur when the defendant has fully completed probation and has not previously served in state prison or been convicted of a sexual crime against a minor. If expunged, the crime will no longer be on the defendant’s record, which can be particularly beneficial when applying for jobs.

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