What Is a Wobbler Law?

what is a wobbler -- judge's gavel

What Is a Wobbler Law?

Every crime in Arizona has a penalty, and usually, the penalties are very specific. For example, the penalty for first degree murder is either life in prison or capital punishment. However, there are some crimes where the penalty may change, increase, or decrease, depending on certain circumstances. These are called wobbler offenses—let’s take a closer look. 

What is a wobbler offense? 

The state of Arizona has six classes of felony crimes. Class 1 felonies have the highest penalties. Class 6 felonies—crimes like shoplifting, unlawful discharge of a firearm, and possession of burglary tools—have the lightest penalties. 

Similarly, Arizona categorizes misdemeanor crimes into three classes. Class 1 misdemeanor crimes such as disorderly conduct, street racing, and DUI, have higher penalties than Class 3 misdemeanors.

A wobbler crime gives a judge the flexibility to treat certain offenses as either a felony or a misdemeanor. A judge can treat a crime that falls within the gray area between Class 6 felonies and Class 1 misdemeanors as a wobbler offense.

Sometimes a judge decides the penalties for a Class 6 felony are too harsh for the defendant and reduces the charge to a misdemeanor. But, if the defendant has a lengthy criminal history, the judge may feel the penalties for a Class 1 misdemeanor are not enough, and impose felony penalties instead. 

How can I get my felony crime treated as a wobbler? 

A judge may lower the penalties for a Class 6 felony to those of a Class 1 misdemeanor if the defendant has not been convicted of two or more felonies. Additionally, the Class 6 felony crime must not include any crime using a gun or other deadly weapon or have caused serious injury to another person.

Class 6 felony crimes that are sometimes treated as a wobbler and turned into a misdemeanor by a judge include: 

  • Possession of drug paraphernalia
  • DUI
  • Witness tampering
  • Property theft valued between $1,000 to $2,000
  • Forgery
  • Possession of less than 2 lbs of marijuana for personal use

Penalties for Class 6 felonies usually include: 

  • Anywhere from four months to almost six years in state prison, depending on the defendant’s criminal history
  • As much as $150,000 in fines

If a judge treats a wobbler felony as a misdemeanor, penalties are reduced to: 

  • Up to six months in a county jail
  • As much as $2,500 in fines
  • Possibility of probation

Understanding Wobbler Offenses in Arizona 

Felonies are serious crimes. People convicted of felonies in Arizona lose a number of public benefits and even constitutional rights such as gun ownership. Plus, a felony conviction leaves a permanent mark on your record, making it harder to find a job and housing. 

If you’re facing a conviction for a Class 6 felony, you need an experienced criminal defense specialist like Todd Coolidge at your side, to answer all your questions and get your conviction lowered to a misdemeanor. 

Wondering if your charge could be a wobbler offense? Contact us today at 602-795-0770 in Phoenix, or 480-264-5111 in Chandler.