Many California offenses qualify for punishment as either felonies or misdemeanors.
A crime which can be filed as either a felony or a misdemeanor is called,
in lawyer slang terms, a "wobbler".
California Penal Code section 17 permits conversion of a felony offense
to a misdemeanor under several types of circumstances. A district attorney
may file a criminal complaint alleging a "wobbler" as a misdemeanor.
If you have been charged with a "wobbler" offense that has been
filed as a felony, a district attorney has reviewed an offense report
and has decided that the case is serious enough to be prosecuted as a
felony. Similarly, if you are being prosecuted for a "wobbler"
offense as a misdemeanor, a district attorney has decided that the case
is not serious enough for felony prosecution.
After a preliminary hearing or at the time of sentencing after trial or
a plea, a court may, at the request of the defendant's lawyer, make
a "wobbler" offense a misdemeanor. In either case, the court
will be second-guessing the district attorney's discretion and determining
that the case should be a misdemeanor.
If you are uncertain about whether a particular charge is a "wobbler",
contact Campbell Whitten for a consultation.