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What Is a Wobbler in California?

A “wobbler” is a criminal offense that could be charged as either a misdemeanor or as a felony. The penalties for a misdemeanor are generally lesser than felonies. Felony convictions also carry collateral consequences of being labeled a felon, which could limit future opportunities and rights. If a defendant is charged with a wobbler in California, it is generally in the defendant's best interests to have the lesser charge.

When you are facing criminal charges, your California defense attorney may be able to have the charges reduced to a misdemeanor instead of a felony. You may be able to have your charges reduced as part of a plea bargain. Contact Gorelick Law Offices in the East Bay for a free consultation to talk about your rights. 

Difference Between a Misdemeanor and Felony

There are a few differences between misdemeanors and felonies. In general, misdemeanors are usually non-violent offenses that could include drunk driving, shoplifting, probation violations, or simple drug possession. The penalties for a misdemeanor conviction include no more than a year in county jail, fines, probation, or community service.  

Felony offenses are more serious crimes that could result in incarceration in the state prison for more than one year. Felons may also be limited in their future opportunities to find a job, get housing, own a gun, or get public benefits. Felony crimes may include violent crimes, grand theft, drug trafficking, weapons offenses, and most sex crimes.

Who Decides Wobbler Charges

In general, the prosecutor will decide whether to charge the offense as a misdemeanor or felony. However, in some cases, the judge may reduce the charge to a misdemeanor. There are several factors that could influence how to treat a wobbler. This includes specific facts about the defendant as well as the strength of the case. 

A prosecutor may evaluate the case based on uniform sentencing guidelines. Factors in sentencing guidelines for misdemeanor and felony criminal charges in California can include: 

  • Prior criminal record
  • Age of the defendant
  • Injury or harm caused
  • Level of participation
  • Cooperation with police

The type of evidence the police and prosecutor have against you can also influence the types of charges. If the prosecutor's case is not very strong, they may be more likely to charge the case as a misdemeanor or try to negotiate a lesser charge as part of plea negotiations. If the prosecutor has a good case with strong evidence against you, they may be more likely to seek the elevated charge. However, do not rely on what the prosecutor says about the evidence against you. Your attorney will be able to give you a better idea of the case and help you avoid pleading guilty when you have a strong defense. 

The judge can also reduce a felony to a misdemeanor before the charges are filed, during sentencing, or after completing probation. Generally, a judge will be more likely to reduce the charges where there are mitigating factors. Mitigating factors in criminal charges may include: 

  • Admission of wrongdoing and showing of remorse
  • No prior criminal record
  • Minor participant in the offense
  • Successfully participated in probation or other rehabilitation programs

What Is a Wobblette?

A wobbler in California can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. Some offenses can be charged as a misdemeanor or as an infraction. A misdemeanor/infraction offense in California is known as a “wobblette.” The penalties of an infraction are much lesser than a misdemeanor. An infraction will not result in jail time and is generally punishable by a fine. Examples of wobblettes may include: 

Talk to your Alameda criminal defense attorney about how charges can be reduced to an infraction. As an infraction, you will not get your chance for a jury trial but it may be better to take the infraction and pay a fine to avoid the possibility of a misdemeanor criminal record. 

Legal Advice for East Bay Criminal Defense

Many people end up pleading guilty to a felony or misdemeanor before they even get a chance to talk to a local criminal defense attorney in their area. The prosecutor may have made it seem like the cards are stacked against you. Even your own public defender may have made it seem like you had no other choice. However, a strong East Bay criminal defense attorney can not only help you reduce charges on a wobbler, your lawyer may also be able to get the case dismissed entirely.

East Bay defense attorney Lynn Gorelick has more than 38 years of California criminal defense experience and understands the consequences of a criminal conviction. Representing individuals in Contra Costa and Alameda County, Lynn Gorelick is familiar with the local criminal defense laws, judges, and the local prosecutors involved. Contact East Bay defense lawyer Lynn Gorelick today.

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