A wobbler offense, also known as a wobbler crime, is a criminal offense that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances of the crime and the discretion of the prosecutor. The term “wobbler” comes from the fact that the offense “wobbles” between being classified as a misdemeanor or a felony.
In the criminal justice system, wobbler offenses are typically considered more serious than typical misdemeanors but less serious than typical felonies.
The decision to charge a wobbler offense as a misdemeanor or a felony is often based on factors such as the severity of the crime, the defendant’s criminal history, and the potential impact of the offense on the victim and society as a whole.
If charged as a misdemeanor, the punishment for a wobbler offense may include fines, community service, and/or up to one year in jail. If charged as a felony, the punishment may include a prison sentence of more than one year, significant fines, and/or probation.
What Are Some Examples of Wobbler Offenses?
Here are some examples of wobbler offenses that can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor:
- Domestic Violence: Depending on the severity of the offense, domestic violence can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. A first-time offense may be charged as a misdemeanor, while more serious offenses involving injury or weapons may be charged as a felony.
- Grand Theft: Depending on the value of the stolen property, grand theft can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.
- Assault with a Deadly Weapon: This offense involves using a weapon to commit an assault. Depending on the severity of the offense, it can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
- Drug Possession: Depending on the type and amount of drugs involved, drug possession can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.
- Burglary: Burglary can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. For example, if the offense involves breaking into a home while it is occupied, it is more likely to be charged as a felony.
- Vandalism: Depending on the amount of damage caused, vandalism can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.
It’s important to note that the discretion of the prosecutor and the judge also plays a role in whether an offense is charged as a misdemeanor or a felony.
Prosecutors are typically responsible for reviewing the evidence in a case and deciding what charges to bring against a defendant. In cases where an offense could be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, the prosecutor may consider factors such as the defendant’s criminal history, the offense’s severity, and the offense’s potential impact on the victim and society as a whole. The prosecutor may also consider any mitigating or aggravating circumstances that may affect the severity of the offense.
Judges, on the other hand, are responsible for determining the sentence that a defendant will receive if convicted. In cases where an offense can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, the judge may consider the same factors that a prosecutor would, as well as any additional information that comes to light during the trial or sentencing hearing.
Ultimately, the judge has the discretion to impose a sentence appropriate for the offense and the defendant’s circumstances.
The discretionary power of prosecutors and judges in charging and sentencing is subject to review by higher courts, and that defendants may have the opportunity to challenge the decision to charge an offense as a felony through various legal avenues.
One possible avenue for challenging a prosecutor’s charging decision is to file a motion to dismiss the felony charge and request that the case be tried as a misdemeanor instead. This motion can be made before trial, and it is up to the judge to decide whether the charge should be reduced. If the judge denies the motion, the defendant may still be able to appeal the decision.
Similarly, defendants who feel that their sentence is too harsh may be able to file an appeal to a higher court. The appellate court will review the trial court’s sentencing decision to determine if it was fair and within the bounds of the law. If the appellate court finds the sentence excessive, it may order a new sentence to be imposed.
The appeals process can be lengthy and costly and may not always result in a favorable outcome for the defendant. Defendants may also have the option to negotiate a plea bargain with the prosecutor, which could reduce charges or give a more lenient sentence.
What Is an “Aggravating Factor”?
An aggravating factor is a circumstance that increases the severity of a crime and/or the punishment that can be imposed upon conviction. These factors may be considered by a prosecutor or judge when making a decision about whether to charge a wobbler crime as a misdemeanor or a felony or when determining the sentence that should be imposed upon conviction.
In the context of wobbler crimes, aggravating factors may push a prosecutor or judge to pursue felony charges rather than misdemeanor charges.
For example, suppose someone is charged with domestic violence, and it is discovered that they have a lengthy history of domestic violence. In that case, this could be considered an aggravating factor that increases the likelihood of the offense being charged as a felony rather than a misdemeanor.
Aggravating factors may also come into play during sentencing. For example, suppose someone is convicted of a wobbler offense such as assault with a deadly weapon. In that case, the judge may consider factors such as the severity of the injury inflicted, the use of a weapon, and any prior criminal history when determining the appropriate sentence.
If any of these factors are deemed to be aggravating, the judge may impose a more severe sentence than they would have otherwise.
Aggravating factors are not the only consideration when making charging and sentencing decisions. The specific circumstances of each case must be carefully evaluated to make an informed decision.
Additionally, the use of aggravating factors is subject to review by higher courts, which can provide an additional layer of oversight to ensure that sentences are fair and just.
Can I Get a Felony Charge Reduced to a Misdemeanor?
In some cases, it may be possible to get a felony charge reduced to a misdemeanor, particularly in wobbler crime situations.
One of the most common ways to get a felony charge reduced to a misdemeanor is through a plea bargain. A plea bargain is an agreement between the defendant and the prosecutor in which the defendant agrees to plead guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a more lenient sentence. In wobbler crime situations, a defendant may be able to negotiate a plea bargain that allows them to plead guilty to a misdemeanor rather than a felony.
Prosecutors are not required to offer plea bargains and may only do so if they feel that it is in the best interest of justice to do so. Additionally, even if a plea bargain is offered, the decision to accept the bargain and plead guilty to a lesser charge is ultimately up to the defendant.
In some cases, a defense attorney may convince the prosecutor or the judge to reduce a felony charge to a misdemeanor, even without a plea bargain, by presenting evidence that the charge is excessive or arguing that the defendant’s circumstances warrant a more lenient sentence.
Ultimately, the decision to reduce a felony charge to a misdemeanor is up to the discretion of the prosecutor and the judge. While there is no guarantee that a charge will be reduced, it is possible in some cases, particularly in wobbler crime situations, where the offense could be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony.
Should I Hire a Lawyer for Help with Wobbler Charges?
If you are facing criminal charges, particularly in a wobbler crime situation, seek the advice and representation of a qualified criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.
A criminal defense attorney can identify any weaknesses in the prosecution’s case and develop a strategic defense strategy tailored to your situation. They can also negotiate with the prosecutor to try to get charges reduced or dismissed or work to get a more lenient sentence in the event of a conviction.
Don’t go through the criminal justice system alone. Contact a criminal lawyer today to schedule a consultation and start building a strong defense.