Traditionally, states define crimes as infractions, misdemeanors, or felonies. Infractions generally come with small fines or other minor penalties. Misdemeanors are more severe, with much higher fines and jail time. Felonies are the most serious crimes, and they come with prison time and massive fines.
States generally use rigid standards for these classifications. A certain crime is always a misdemeanor, and it can be penalized in predetermined ways.
California has adopted a unique, fluid system for its felony and misdemeanor crimes. In the state, most crimes are “wobblers,” meaning they can be charged as either misdemeanors or felonies.
In this article, we will explore what wobblers are and how they work. We will also discuss exceptions to the wobbler system.
How Do Wobbler Crimes Work?
Whether a defendant is charged with a misdemeanor or a felony depends on the circumstance of their crime. Prosecutors personally evaluate each case.
They can consider several factors when charging the alleged offender, such as:
- The defendant’s age
- The defendant’s criminal history
- Mitigating circumstances
- The defendant’s mental health
Therefore, two people accused of the same crime may face different penalties. Let’s say they conspired to steal from a local convenience store. One has a long rap sheet with many theft allegations. The other has no prior criminal history and has otherwise been a model citizen. The first defendant might be charged with a felony, and the other may be facing a misdemeanor.
After evaluating a case, the prosecutor makes their recommendations to the judge. The judge has the right to make the final call. Typically, they will go along with a prosecutor’s suggestions, but if they disagree, they can make the charge more or less severe.
Wobblettes in California
Just as there are crimes that can fluctuate between felony and misdemeanor, there are others that can be charged as either misdemeanors or infractions.
The process is the same as with wobblers. Prosecutors can look at the details of the crime and decide whether it should be more or less severe.
Straight Felonies in California
The state charges the most severe crimes are strictly charged as felonies, with no chance of dropping them down to misdemeanors.
Straight felonies are egregious crimes like murder, rape, embezzling vast sums of money, and so on.
Defending Against Wobbler Crimes
A good attorney defends you against your accusations, attempting to prove your innocence. This is not, however, their only job. Lawyers also spend a great deal of time arguing for a fair charge or sentence.
If you’ve been accused of a felony in California, you need a skilled attorney to argue for a more reasonable charge. They can help tell your story to the court, and they may be able to change your accusers’ minds. Your crime could be wobbled down to a misdemeanor or even an infraction, depending on the circumstances.
If you’ve been accused of a felony or a misdemeanor, call our office today at (916) 571-1550. We can help argue your innocence, and we may be able to get the judge to wobble your crime down to a lesser charge. You can also reach us through our online contact form.