Wobbler Offense in California
When you’re arrested for a crime in California, the court charges you based on the type of criminal activity alleged. A prosecutor evaluates the allegations and the relevant statutes and decides whether to charge you with a felony, misdemeanor, or infraction. When a penalty for an alleged crime “wobbles” between a felony and misdemeanor standards, courts consider them a wobbler offense.
Our team at Dod Law, APC can assist you every step of the way if you were charged with some kind of wobbler offense. We can intervene with the court on your behalf and make sure your rights are protected.
What Is a Wobbler Offense?
Wobbler offenses give courts and prosecutors flexible prosecutorial options. They include a wide range of criminal activities. Consequently, they qualify for a range of felony or misdemeanor penalties. If a crime isn’t serious enough to warrant a felony charge or if it is minor enough to be a misdemeanor, prosecutors often handle it as a hybrid.
They may charge an offender with a felony but sentence the crime as a misdemeanor. This often applies when a person commits certain criminal acts but the court doesn’t believe they would benefit from incarceration in a state prison. The opposite side of this issue is that the crime is often too serious to receive a misdemeanor or infraction designation.
What Types of Offenses Qualify as Wobblers?
The California criminal justice system recognizes that many criminal offenses have common aspects, but they are not the same. Wobbler designations allow courts to assess criminal behaviors according to severity and intent. Common wobbler offenses include:
- Vehicular manslaughter
- Sex crimes
- Disturbing the peace, such as public fighting or offensive language
- Fraud crimes like forgery, insurance fraud, and healthcare fraud
- Domestic violence
California’s criminal statutes designate a long list of crimes as Wobbler offenses. When criminal penalties wobble between a misdemeanor and an infraction, the courts sometimes refer to them as wobblette cases.
How Do Courts View Wobbler Offenses?
As outlined in California Penal Code, §1170, the court has discretion in issuing punishments that are “…proportionate to the seriousness of the offense.” In meeting this duty, a prosecutor or judge may treat various crimes as felonies, misdemeanors, or infractions. In charging a crime as a wobbler offense, the courts have a framework that enables sentencing based on discretion.
A court can decide to punish a case as a felony, misdemeanor, or infraction at several points during the criminal process.
- Preliminary Hearing: A prosecutor can choose to handle a case as a misdemeanor or a felony when the court first formalizes the charge.
- Plea Bargaining: A defense attorney can seek less stringent prosecution by arranging a plea bargain with the prosecutor at any time before a trial. If the court has the option of prosecuting the case as either a felony or a misdemeanor, the attorney may negotiate it down to a misdemeanor.
- Sentencing: A judge may use their sentencing discretion to convert a felony to a misdemeanor. They may also keep the case at felony status and apply misdemeanor sentencing.
- Expungement/Dismissal: After a convicted offender has completed their sentence, they may apply for expungement. Through this process, a court can remove a felony conviction from a person’s criminal record. The charge remains on a criminal record but it shows as not guilty or dismissed.
Make sure to reach out to a criminal lawyer to know what your rights are.
Contact Experienced Criminal Lawyers at Dod Law, APC
California wobbler cases can be complicated. If a law enforcement agency has charged you with a wobbler crime, we will work with you to build the strongest defense possible. At Dod Law, APC, we are seasoned criminal lawyers. When we defend our clients’ cases, we develop strategies that help us produce optimum outcomes.
Your timely call gives us an opportunity to protect your legal rights from your initial court hearing until we resolve your case. Our team has over 18 years of experience and can help make sure your rights are protected. You may reach us at our San Diego office (619) 814-5110 | Vista office 760-814-6025 or leave a message on our contact page.