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Why is a DUI Sometimes Considered a “Wobbler” Charge?

By San Diego Attorney on August 1, 2022

Most DUI cases in California are misdemeanors. But some DUIs may be prosecuted as a felony based on the circumstances of the case or the driver’s record. These cases are called wobblers.

Prosecutors have a considerable amount of discretion when it comes to deciding how to proceed in a wobbler DUI case, but it’s ultimately the judge who decides how the defendant will be charged.

Penalties are much harsher for felonies than misdemeanors – even when it’s for the same offense. That’s why it’s so important to find an experienced criminal defense lawyer who’s familiar with the court system. In fact, your freedom could depend on it.

When Is a DUI Considered a Wobbler?

A DUI case is considered a wobbler in the following circumstances:

If the defendant is involved in an accident where another person is killed, then the case is not a wobbler, and the defendant will be charged with a felony.

How Prosecutors Decide When to Prosecute a Wobbler as a Felony

Prosecutors examine the facts in the case and consider the defendant’s record when deciding whether to prosecute a wobbler as a misdemeanor or a felony. They will also consult with the defendant’s defense attorney to determine the best way to proceed with a particular case.

Prosecutors in California will usually refer to the Uniform Crime Charging Standards created by the California District Attorney’s Association when deciding whether to charge the defendant with a misdemeanor or a felony in a wobbler case. According to these professional standards, prosecutors should consider the following:

  • How serious is the crime?
  • Are there extenuating circumstances?
  • Are there aggravating circumstances?
  • Was the defendant willing to cooperate?
  • The defendant’s overall behavior
  • The defendant’s criminal history
  • What is the likelihood of a repeat offense?
  • How strong is the prosecutor’s case?

How Judges Decide Wobbler Cases

In a wobbler DUI case, your attorney may be able to work with the District Attorney to arrange a plea agreement that allows you to avoid felony prosecution. But the judge must sign off on any deal reached between the defense and the prosecution.

A judge may decide to reduce a wobbler charge to a misdemeanor during a preliminary hearing, at the time of sentencing, or after the defendant has completed the conditions of California felony probation.

When making the decision to reduce felony charges to a misdemeanor, the judge may consider:

  • The severity of the crime
  • The defendant’s overall history
  • The number of repeat offense
  • The defendant’s age
  • The facts of the current case
  • Severity of injuries an accident may have caused
  • The defendant’s BAC
  • How much the defendant cooperated with law enforcement

What’s the Difference Between a Misdemeanor and a Felony?

When it comes to a DUI, the difference between charged with a felony or a misdemeanor is considerable.

Penalties for a misdemeanor DUI offense include:

  • Up to a year in jail
  • A maximum fine of $5000
  • Mandatory Interlock Ignition Device (IID) for up to 6 months
  • Restitution for victims

Consequences for a felony DUI may include:

  • Up to 16 years in prison
  • A maximum fine of $5000
  • Mandatory Interlock Ignition Device (IID) for up to one year
  • A permanent police record
  • Required disclosure when applying for jobs
  • Loss of professional license
  • Deportation
  • Relinquishing your right to own firearms

The Right Lawyer Makes a Big Difference

If you’re facing criminal charges, you’ll want to have someone on your side who understands the law and knows how the local courts operate.

Our team at jD Law Criminal Defense Attorneys has over 30 years of experience defending clients in criminal cases. And our founder James N. Dicks is one of just 30 Board Certified Criminal Law Specialists in San Diego County.

We’ve had great success getting DUI charges reduced or dismissed by:

  • Challenging test results
  • Proving the defendant’s rights were violated
  • Using expert testimony
  • Convincing judges and prosecutors to accept a favorable plea agreement

To learn more, give us a call today at (760) 630-2000.

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