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Understanding and Defending Against a “Wobbler” Charge in California

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At the Law Office of Paul Tyler, we are committed to safeguarding the rights of our clients and helping them navigate the complex legal terrain of the criminal justice system. One particularly important fact about California law is that some offenses can be charged as either misdemeanors or felonies depending on the circumstances. These offenses are called wobblers because they “wobble” between misdemeanor and felony charges. Being charged with a misdemeanor versus a felony can have a dramatic impact on how your case is handled and the potential consequences at stake. It is therefore essential to understand what a wobbler is and how it might impact your case if you are faced with one. Read on to learn more about wobblers in California criminal law, and contact the Law Office of Paul Tyler if you’ve been arrested for DUI or any misdemeanor or criminal offense in Oxnard or Ventura County.

What Is a Wobbler?

A “wobbler” charge is not unique to the California legal system, but it is especially prominent in the California Penal Code compared with other states. It refers to a crime that can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the specifics of the case and the discretion of the prosecutor. In essence, the wobbler sits on the fence of legal classifications, hence its name. Typical examples include grand theft, assault with a deadly weapon, and certain types of fraud and drug offenses.

One crucial aspect to note about a wobbler charge is that while it initially provides the prosecutor flexibility in determining the level of the charge, it also offers the defendant opportunities for a reduced sentence or even the possibility of having the conviction expunged from their record at a later time. This is where the expertise of a dedicated criminal defense attorney becomes invaluable. A lawyer experienced in dealing with wobblers understands the intricacies of these charges and knows how to negotiate effectively on your behalf.

Understanding the Factors Influencing How a Wobbler Gets Charged

Prosecutors will consider several factors when deciding how to charge a wobbler crime. These can include:

  1. The specifics of the crime: This includes the severity of the offense, whether or not a weapon was used, the value of property stolen, and so forth.
  2. The defendant’s criminal history: A first-time offender is more likely to be charged with a misdemeanor, while a repeat offender might face a felony charge.
  3. The circumstances surrounding the crime: If the crime was committed under duress or there were mitigating circumstances, a misdemeanor charge is more likely.

Defending Against a Wobbler Charge

When defending against a wobbler charge, a smart defense strategy often includes demonstrating mitigating circumstances or highlighting aspects of the case that make a misdemeanor charge more appropriate. By doing so, your lawyer aims to get the charge reduced, ideally at the outset, but if necessary, later during the case.

If a felony conviction has already occurred, your criminal defense attorney can petition the court to reduce the charge to a misdemeanor under California Penal Law section 17(b). If successful, this reduction can significantly impact your life, relieving you from the burden of a felony conviction and the related collateral consequences.

Furthermore, once the felony has been reduced to a misdemeanor, your lawyer can also potentially seek to have the conviction expunged from your record under Penal Code 1203.4, giving you a clean slate.

Navigating a wobbler charge can be a complex process, and it is crucial to have a knowledgeable and experienced attorney on your side. At the Law Office of Paul Tyler, we are committed to providing vigorous defense representation to our clients in Ventura County and beyond. If you or a loved one is facing a wobbler charge in Southern California, don’t hesitate to contact our office for a consultation. Our team stands ready to fight for your rights and your future.

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