What is a Wobbler in Criminal Law?

When looking at the potential penalties related to criminal charges you are facing, it can be more than a little unnerving. That is one reason it is so important to have an experienced attorney on your side. The fact is that there are many details in criminal law, one of which relates to the wobbler. Yes, the term sounds a bit trivial and flip, but wobblers are very serious business in the criminal justice system. Successfully addressing a wobbler in a court of law can have an enormous impact on the penalties you face, from incarceration to fines and beyond. What, then, is a wobbler? 


Wobblers are an exclusive class of crimes that vary in their level of seriousness. Plenty of offenses are wobblers, including property defacement, domestic violence, vehicular manslaughter, and assault with a deadly weapon. Some of the most common wobbler cases include certain drug charges, sexual battery, and forgery. Notably, these crimes may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, meaning the penalties can be fairly mild or very, very serious. A guilty verdict could land an offender with a simple fine, in the county jail, or with a lengthy prison sentence.

Misdemeanor or Felony?

A judge considers the specifics of cases involving wobblers to determine whether the crimes should be charged as misdemeanors or felonies. Some factors to be weighed include the severity of the crime, as well as any previous charges and convictions the defendant may have amassed. 

Felony Charges Have Long-Term Implications

Certainly, being charged with a misdemeanor, even a gross misdemeanor, has far better outcomes for defendants than felony charges. Besides having much lighter penalties, the social shame associated with felony charges is much tougher than is it for misdemeanors. And there are more:

  • Felons may be denied housing;
  • Felons cannot vote while in prison or on parole;
  • Felons may not serve on a jury while imprisoned;
  • Felons may have professional licenses revoked, suspended, or disqualified permanently;
  • Felons may be barred from working with labor unions, banks, federal defense contractors or subcontractors, and more;
  • Felons may be denied other employment opportunities based on employer preference;
  • Felons cannot serve in the armed forces;
  • Felons cannot purchase or possess firearms, and could be charged with another felony if they violate this rule for anywhere from 10 years to life;
  • Certain felons may not hold public office;
  • Felons may not be eligible for student loans;
  • Felons may not be eligible for public assistance;
  • A felony record may be more difficult to expunge.

Fighting for You

The dedicated criminal defense lawyers at Boertje & Associates have your best interests in mind.  We always put up a vigorous defense in an attempt to achieve the best possible outcomes for you. To discuss, schedule a confidential consultation in our San Diego office today.

Contact Information