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Wobbler Crimes Information

A wobbler usually refers to a criminal offense that may be classified either as a misdemeanor, or alternatively as a felony. Essentially, the classification of the criminal offense "wobbles." A wobbler can also refer to a criminal offense that may be charged as a misdemeanor or as an infraction. These wobbler crimes are mostly low level misdemeanor charges (or high-level infractions). There are only a few wobbler crimes that wobble between a misdemeanor and an infraction. For that reason, the balance of this article discusses only wobbler crimes that wobble between a misdemeanor and a felony.


Wobbler Example:


The criminal charge of WI10980(c)(2) [Welfare Fraud] may be charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor. Felony WI10980(c)(2)-F carries up to a three year jail sentence; misdemeanor WI10980(c)(2)-M carries up to a one year jail sentence. Notice that the criminal code section for welfare fraud is the same whether or not the district attorney charges the crime as a felony or as a misdemeanor.


Note: The difference in the length of the jail sentence associated with misdemeanor or felony welfare fraud is not the only difference. A felony welfare fraud conviction will carry formal probation terms (monitored by a probation officer), the loss of gun rights, more severe consequences for professional licensing and immigration concerns, and more.


Felony v. Misdemeanor Classification: A felony criminal offense is an offense that is considered more severe in terms of criminal culpability and punishment. Also, felony criminal offenses usually carries longer incarceration periods and more severe collateral penalties and punishments than misdemeanor offenses.


There are many misdemeanor / felony wobbler crimes in California. A list of the most common wobbler crimes is listed below this section. Click on the corresponding wobbler crime for an in-depth analysis of the law, the punishment, and the defenses that are associated with that particular wobbler offense.


Charging Discretion: The district attorney has the discretion to charge a wobbler offense as either a felony or as a misdemeanor. Whether or not the district attorney charges a felony or a misdemeanor in any wobbler case depends on many factors, such as the defendant’s criminal history, the egregiousness of the defendant’s conduct, the depth of physical injury or financial loss to any victim, the sophistication of the defendant’s crime, and more.


Reducing a Wobbler’s Classification: It is not uncommon for a wobbler to be charged as a felony only to be subsequently reduced to a misdemeanor for several reasons. These reasons include: The defendant’s request to the judge that the charges be reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor (even over the district attorney’s objection), the reduction in classification as part of a negotiated plea bargain agreement where the defendant agrees to plead guilty (or no contest) to a criminal charge in exchange for the district attorney’s agreement to reduce the classification from a felony to a misdemeanor, and the reclassification of the criminal offense after conviction and related to an expungement.


Note: Sometimes, a district attorney might seem to charge a wobbler offense as a felony, as opposed to a misdemeanor, only for the purpose of using the possible reduction of the offense’s classification as a bargaining chip in any subsequent plea bargain negotiations. This practice should be avoided by district attorneys because it means that the defendant must post bail on the felony charge for no legitimate reason (usually a much higher bail amount) and the practice leads to mistrust in the fairness of the criminal process.


Note: The defendant may request that a wobbler be reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor at any point in a criminal prosecution (PC 17(b), including after a conviction for the felony offense; however, in most cases, the defendant’s request to the court that his or her felony charge be reduced to a misdemeanor charge is usually made immediately after the preliminary hearing. The reason for this is that after the preliminary hearing the judge will have a better understanding of the facts and circumstances of the case, including the presence of any mitigating or aggravating factors that may be related and considered as part of the defendant’s request.


Common Wobbler Crimes:



If you are charged with any criminal offense, including any wobbler offense, you should seek the advice of an experienced criminal defense lawyers without delay. Our successful lawyers handle every type of misdemeanor and felony offense. Our team is always available to discuss your case with you and review your legal rights and defense options. There is no charge to speak to one of our criminal defense lawyers at an in-office first-time consultation. Call today!



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