What's a Wobbler? Can a Felony Be Changed to a Misdemeanor?
For example, spousal battery (Penal Code § 273.5), criminal threats (Penal Code § 422), burglary (Penal Code § 459), elder abuse, forgery, embezzlement, sexual battery (Penal Code § 243.4), lewd acts with a minor (Penal Code § 288) and assault with a deadly weapon (Penal Code § 245(a)(1)) can all be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor.The Reader’s Digest Version: A wobbler is a charge that can be brought as a felony or a misdemeanor, depending upon the defendant’s criminal history and the case facts. To change the charge level from a felony to a misdemeanor, one must seek a judge’s order for this under Penal Code § 17(b).
In any discussion of having a felony reduced to a misdemeanor, one should also consider if the felony offense is eligible for reduction under Proposition 47, which would apply for certain “low level” drug and theft offenses, or Proposition 64 (the Adult Use of Marijuana Act), which applies to a limited set of marijuana offenses.
There are countless reasons why one may need a felony conviction off one’s record. It might be because it is tough to get a job, a loan or rent a place to live with a felony record, or a state licensing board may refuse to issue a license in certain professions to one with a felony record, or you wish to serve on a jury. You may also want to own a firearm, even if the reduction merely reclassifies the offense as a misdemeanor that carries with it a ten year ban owning a firearm (Penal Code § 12021).
When a judge considers reducing a felony to a misdemeanor, an analysis will be made concerning your criminal history, your personal history, your following all terms of probation and most importantly, the circumstances of the crime, especially those in aggravation or mitigation.
Reducing a felony to a misdemeanor does not completely free one of every consequence of a having a felony conviction, even previously, in every type of crime. For example, if the offense was a strike offense, as defined under Penal Code §§ 667(b) to (j) or 1170.12, the individual will keep a strike on his record for sentence enhancements in the future, if he is convicted again. Relief under Penal Code § 17(b) does not lift one’s obligation to continue to register as a sex offender if the underlying offense required this. And if one is a lawyer, the State Bar of California considers a felony conviction a felony conviction forever, regardless of whether any judge reduces the offense to a misdemeanor later.
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