Wobbler crimes are offenses that can be punished as a misdemeanor or felony in Arizona. The penalties are significantly less severe if an offense is charged or reduced to a misdemeanor. If you are facing criminal charges, you need the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney to get your wobbler crime reduced to a misdemeanor.
What Is a Wobbler Offense?
In Arizona, felonies are divided into six classifications. Class 1 felonies are the most serious crimes, and Class 6 felonies, such as shoplifting or unlawful discharge of a firearm, are the least severe felonies.
Misdemeanors are also divided into classifications, but there are only three classifications of crimes. Class 1 misdemeanors are the most severe offenses, while Class 3 misdemeanors are the least serious offenses a person can be charged with committing.
Some crimes fall in the gray area of being a Class 1 misdemeanor or a Class 6 felony, depending on the circumstances of the crime. In these cases, the judge has the discretion to treat the offense as a wobbler crime.
This allows the charge to be reduced from a Class 6 felony to a Class 1 misdemeanor if they believe the punishment for a felony is too harsh. They can also increase the penalty for a misdemeanor to a Class 6 felony if they think the misdemeanor sentence is too lenient given the defendant’s criminal history.
What Are Examples of Wobbler Crimes?
In Arizona, specific requirements must be met for a crime to be considered a wobbler. They include:
- Convictions. The defendant cannot have two or more felony convictions.
- Non-dangerous offense. The crime must be a non-dangerous Class 6 felony. It cannot involve using, displaying, or discharging a dangerous instrument or deadly weapon. The defendant also cannot have knowingly inflicted serious bodily injury on the victim.
Examples of wobbler offenses include:
- Theft of property that is valued at between $1,000 and $2,000
- Possession of drug paraphernalia
- Personal possession of less than two pounds of marijuana
- Witness tampering
How Are the Penalties Different for a Felony vs. a Misdemeanor Conviction?
The penalties would be much harsher if a conviction is for a Class 6 felony rather than a Class 1 misdemeanor. If the crime is a felony, the individual could be sentenced to between four months and five years and nine months in prison and a fine of up to $150,000.
However, if the conviction is for a Class 1 misdemeanor, the sentence would be lighter. The judge could impose a jail sentence of up to six months, probation for up to three years, and fines not to exceed $2,500.
In addition, the long-term consequences of a felony conviction would be more severe than if the conviction was for a misdemeanor. They include:
- Loss of a job and difficulty finding employment
- Loss of the right to possess or own a firearm
- Difficulty finding housing
- Loss of immigration status
- Loss of a license or certification needed for certain professions
- Duty to register as a sex offender
How Can You Get a Wobbler Offense Reduced to a Misdemeanor?
There are several ways a defendant can get their Class 6 felony reduced as a wobbler crime. Here are a few options:
- Show that the punishment for a felony would be too harsh
- Convince the judge to suspend their sentence and convict them of an unclassified Class 6 felony, which is a suspended or delayed sentence to permit the defendant to complete the terms of their sentence
- Enter into a plea bargain with the prosecutor
Are you facing criminal charges in Flagstaff or Northern Arizona? Our knowledgeable criminal defense lawyers can advise you whether your offense could be a wobbler crime and how we will mount an aggressive defense for you.
Contact us online or call our Flagstaff office at 928-226-0165 to schedule your free initial consultation today to learn more about how we can defend you. We also invite you to order our free book, Accused of a Crime in Arizona: What Happens Next Is Up to You.