Some serious California crimes are considered straight felonies meaning they are only punishable as a felony. However, many crimes in California may be charged as “wobblers,” or “alternative felony/misdemeanor offenses.” These crimes, usually depending on the whim of the prosecutor or judge, may be punished as either a felony or a misdemeanor. Whether a crime is charged as a misdemeanor or felony indisputably makes a substantial difference to a criminal defendant charged with a crime in California. It is crucial to reduce a wobbler from a felony to a misdemeanor, if possible.
The following are some of the most common crimes that are charged as wobblers in California:
- California Penal Code § 192(c)(1) and (2), vehicular manslaughter,
- California Penal Code § 243.4 sexual battery
- California Penal Code § 245(a)(1), assault with a deadly weapon (ADW)
- California Penal Code § 261.5, “statutory rape”
- California Penal Code § 271, child endangerment
- California Penal Code § 273.5, spousal battery,
- California Penal Code § 288, lewd acts with a minor,
- California Penal Code § 422, making criminal threats,
- California Penal Code § 459, burglary,
- California Penal Code § 470, forgery,
- California Penal Code § 487, grand theft,
- California Penal Code § 646.9(a), stalking, and
- California Penal Code § 25850(a), carrying a loaded firearm in public.
A criminal offense chargeable as a wobbler in California may be reduced to a misdemeanor at the following four points in time:
- When the prosecutor charges the offense;
- When the defendant answers at a felony preliminary hearing;
- At the time of sentencing; or
- (For defendants who have not been sentenced to prison and have completed California formal probation) when a petition to reduce a California felony conviction to a misdemeanor is filed.
Thus, there is still a potential opportunity after the defendant is charged, pleads, and is sentenced, where he or she may still reduce a wobbler offense, originally charged as a felony, to a misdemeanor. Unlike wobblers, a “straight” felony may not later be reduced to a misdemeanor.
Also, expungement is available for most wobbler offenses regardless of whether the defendant was ultimately convicted of a felony or a misdemeanor. To qualify for the expungement of a criminal offense, the defendant must
- have successfully completed probation for the offense, which includes the early termination of probation, and
- not have served time in state prison for the offense, or
- have served time in state prison for an offense that would now be served in county jail resulting from the effect of “realignment” (Proposition 47 legislation).
For over forty years, the Dolan Law Offices have provided Californians with post-conviction services that clear their criminal record to further solidify their future as productive, law-abiding members of the Coachella Valley community. The attorneys at the Dolan Law Offices are experienced in helping California residents clear their criminal records. Call us today at (760) 775-3739 or find out more online here.