Wobblers described. The term "wobbler" describes a lesser felony offense that specifies fines or jail time
as alternative punishments to state prison. Califonria defines over a hundred offenses as wobblers. The
district attorney can charge a wobbler offense as a felony or as a misdemeanor. Trial courts may reduce a
wobbler charged as a felony to a misdemeanor before holding the defendant to answer following a
preliminary examination or at sentencing.
Impact of prior conduct. In California, wobbler offenses inclde misdemeanors that prosecutors can
charge as felonies due to the defendant's criminal record. For example, the Penal Code classifies petty
theft as a misdemeanor, but prosecutors can charge petty theft as a felony when the defendant has
served a term of imprisonment for certain theft-related crimes.
Post-conviction reduction. Even after conviction and sentencing, if the court did not sentence the
defendant to state prison, the court can reduce a wobbler felony to a misdemeanor. The felony reduction
process starts with the filing of a motion and petition with the court that convicted the defendant.
Normally, the district attorney's office and the probation department review the petition. The probation
department then submits a report to the court and the court sets a hearing. At the hearing, the court will
determine whether or not to reduce the prior felony conviction. Note that under some circumstances, the
court may also expunge the offense from the defendant's record. If the court reduces the conviction to a
misdemeanor, it becomes a misdemeanor "for all purposes." On a job application, the defendant need only
report conviction for a misdemeanor. The court will notify the Department of Justice (DOJ) of the redction
of the offense to a misdemeanor, and the DOJ will notifiy law-enforcement agencies. However, in a
subsequent criminal action for a similar offense, the original felony conviction will count as a prior offense
for sentence-enhancement purposes. Also, the original felony conviction will count against the defendant
for purposes of federal firearm possession laws.
Three strikes. Under the three strikes sentencing scheme, upon conviction of any felony (not just a
serious or violent felony), the court must sentence a person with two or more previous serious or violent
felony convictions to at least 25 years imprisonment. The court may, but need not, count conviction of a
wobbler offense as a "third strike." The court should consider the nature and circumstances of the
offense, and the defendant's appreciation of and attitude towards the offense, or his traits of character
as evidenced by his behavior and demeanor at the trial.
Felonies and misdemeanors
Prosecutors can charge some crimes as felonies or misdemeanors.