What does a “Wobbler” Offense Mean?
A wobbler offense means that a crime is punishable either as a felony or misdemeanor. The government holds the discretion when determining whether you should be charged with a felony or misdemeanor. In most instances, your prior criminal history will play the pivotal factor in addition to any harm / injury suffered by your accuser. Fortunately, if you were charged with a felony wobbler, then you may be eligible to reduce the felony to a misdemeanor: 1) pursuant to a plea offer from the prosecutor or bench offer from the judge; 2) before the conclusion of preliminary hearing; or 3) after you successfully completed probation. Note that you cannot reduce a felony wobbler offense down to a misdemeanor if you were sentenced to state prison or if execution of your state prison sentence was suspended. And if you pled to a felony strike offense, then reducing your felony to a misdemeanor will not bar the government from using your strike plea as a sentencing enhancement against you in the event you’re arrested for another felony.
A wobbler offense can be determined simply by reading the code section of a particular offense. Not all crimes are wobblers. Rather, if the statute or code section makes a particular offense punishable in the state prison or in the county jail, then the offense is a wobbler. For example, the end of the code section will read, “…shall be punished by imprisonment in the county not to exceed one year, or by imprisonment in the state prison.” Because the code section reads that a conviction could be punishable in either penal institution – i.e., county jail or state prison, the offense is a wobbler.
For more information, contact an Newport Beach Criminal Defense Attorney at the Law Offices of John D. Rogers for a free consultation.