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What is a Wobbler?


Misdemeanors and felonies are the two main types of crimes in California. While a misdemeanor conviction is punishable by jail time and thousands of dollars in fines, a felony conviction carries a lengthy prison sentence and fines worth tens of thousands of dollars. 

Clearly, misdemeanors are less serious than felony offenses. However, there are some crimes that can be either charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, which are known as “wobblers.” 

The following are some of the most common wobbler offenses in California: 

  • Burglary 

  • Grand theft 

  • Forgery 

  • Carrying a loaded gun in public 

  • Making criminal threats 

  • Vehicular manslaughter 

  • Assault with a deadly weapon 

  • Stalking 

  • Spousal battery 

  • Sexual battery 

  • Statutory rape 

  • Lewd acts with a minor 

  • Child endangerment 

Ultimately, prosecutors have the authority to reduce a wobbler offense to a misdemeanor. They can do so when the defendant is charged, during a felony preliminary hearing, during sentencing, and after the defendant completes probation – so long as he/she was not sentenced to imprisonment. 

The prosecutors will determine whether to reduce a felony to a misdemeanor based on the standards set forth by the California District Attorneys Association (CDAA): 

  • The strength of the prosecutor’s case 

  • The defendant’s criminal history 

  • The seriousness of the offense 

  • The defendant’s age 

  • Whether the defendant cooperated with the investigation 

  • Whether the defendant is eligible for parole 

  • Whether the defendant will be a repeat offender 

In addition, there are also “wobblette” offenses in California. These are crimes that can be punished as either a misdemeanor or an infraction. 

Common types of wobblette offenses include: 

  • Driving with a revoked or suspended license 

  • Driving without a license 

  • Failure to appear in traffic court 

  • Exhibition of speed 

  • Criminal trespass 

  • Disturbing the peace 

An infraction carries a maximum fine of $250 and no jail time. The prosecutor can reduce a wobblette to an infraction at the time of charging or a judge can do so during sentencing. 

If you have been arrested in Santa Barbara, call Appel & Morse at (805) 467-6060 or fill out our online contact form today to schedule a free initial consultation. More than 40 years of combined trial-tested experience! 

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