First things first, what is a “wobbler”? A wobbler is a criminal code section that allows a person to be charged on various criminal levels. For example, a code section will allow a prosecutor to charge a person with either a felony or misdemeanor, or a code section will allow a prosecutor to charge a person with either a misdemeanor or infraction.
How does the Prosecutor determine what to charge each person with?
A prosecutor will determine how to charge a person under each code section depending on the facts of the case and the persons criminal history. Let’s consider some examples.
Diana is driving home from a party and there is a lot of fog in the area and it is really windy. Unknowingly, Diana hits a fence. The fence is scratched but other than that there is no actual damage. Thinking that there really is no damage, Diana leaves the scene without leaving any contact information. Diana has no prior criminal record.
David is driving home from a bar. He has had a few drinks. On his way home he mistakenly pulls into the wrong driveway and runs into the owners garage. Thankfully no persons are injured. Not wanting to get caught and arrested, David drives off. David is currently on probation for his second DUI conviction.
In the above mentioned scenarios, Diana is likely to getscharged with a misdemeanor Hit and Run under Vehicle Code 20001 because the damage was very minimal and she has no previous record. It is also likely that Diana will get her case dismissed entirely because she did not believe there was any damage and therefore did not believe it was necessary to leave any contact information. In comparison, David is likely to get charged with a felony due to the extensive damage done and his criminal record.
Why does it matter if the code section I am charged under is a wobbler?
The sentences for each level of criminal charge vary and depending on the criminal charge you could face much lower penalties. A felony charge will have the highest possible sentence. Felony charges always include a jail sentence, fines, restitution, and probation among other consequences. Misdemeanors do not always involve jail sentences, but could. Infractions never involve a jail sentence. In fact, infractions are traffic tickets, and only involve minimal fines. In addition, infractions do not go on your record, and do not have to be reported as part of a criminal history unless infractions are specifically asked for.
If you are charged under a code section that could be a wobbler, be sure to consult with an experienced Los Angeles Criminal Defense attorney! Having an experienced and knowledgeable attorney fight for your side could be the difference between a higher charge and an infraction, quite possibly even a dismissal!