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What Is a Wobbler Offense?

Wolfe & Mote Law Group, LLC Oct. 18, 2023

Understanding the ins and outs of criminal law can be challenging. One term that often raises eyebrows is "wobbler offense. " So, what exactly is a wobbler offense? Explore this topic with insights from the experienced attorneys at Wolfe & Mote Law Group, LLC — based in Columbus, Ohio. 

Wobbler Offenses in Ohio

A wobbler offense is a unique type of crime that has the potential to be classified as either a misdemeanor or a felony. The term "wobbler" stems from these offenses' ability to "wobble" between classifications — they're not strictly one or the other. In Ohio, like many other states, the classification of a wobbler offense can significantly impact the severity of the penalties faced by the defendant. 

A common example of a wobbler offense in Ohio is Assault. Depending on the circumstances surrounding the incident, prosecutors can charge Assault as either a misdemeanor or a felony. For instance, if the assault led to minor injuries, it might be charged as a misdemeanor. But if the assault resulted in serious harm, or if a weapon was used during the incident, the charge could escalate to a felony.  

Why Do Wobbler Offenses Matter?

Wobbler offenses are significant because they present a unique challenge for defendants and their legal representation. The potential to face either misdemeanor or felony charges means that defendants may not know the severity of their charges until after their arrest. This uncertainty can make it difficult for defendants to prepare a proper defense and protect their rights. It also means that the penalties they face could range from fines and probation to imprisonment, depending on how the charges are ultimately classified. 

Furthermore, the ability to classify crimes as wobbler offenses allows the criminal justice system to tailor punishments to fit the specific circumstances of each case. It acknowledges that not all crimes are equal and that rehabilitation can be more effective than lengthy prison sentences in certain situations. 

Wobbler offenses provide a more nuanced approach to criminal justice, ensuring that punishments are fair and appropriate for each individual case. If you or someone you know is facing a charge that could be classified as a wobbler offense, it's essential to seek legal advice from experienced attorneys like Stephen Wolfe and Elizabeth Mote at Wolfe & Mote Law Group, LLC. 

Common Wobbler Crimes

In addition to assault, there are numerous crimes that fall under the wobbler offense category. Some common examples include:  

  • Domestic Violence: Like assault, domestic violence can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony depending on the severity of the incident and the defendant's criminal history.  

  • Drug Possession: In Ohio, drug possession is typically considered a felony offense. However, certain drugs may be classified as wobblers, giving prosecutors discretion to charge defendants with either a misdemeanor or felony.  

  • Burglary: Depending on the circumstances of the burglary, it may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. Factors such as property value and whether weapons were involved can impact the classification. 

  • DUI/OVI: Driving under the influence (DUI) or operating a vehicle intoxicated (OVI) is considered a wobbler offense in Ohio. The classification and penalties will depend on factors such as blood alcohol content (BAC) and whether the defendant has prior convictions.  

  • Fraud: Typically, fraud charges are considered felonies. However, certain types of fraud may be classified as wobblers depending on the severity and value of the fraudulent activity.  

Who Decides Whether It’s a Felony or Misdemeanor?

The decision of whether a wobbler offense is prosecuted as a felony or a misdemeanor is typically in the hands of the prosecutor, but ultimately, the judge has the final say. This decision is usually made after evaluating the specific details of the case.  

However, it's important to note that this decision doesn't equal a conviction. With the help of experienced attorneys like Stephen Wolfe and Elizabeth Mote at Wolfe & Mote Law Group, a charge may potentially be reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor through negotiations with the prosecution. 

What Factors May Be Taken Into Consideration?

The decision to charge a wobbler offense as a felony or a misdemeanor depends on several factors. These can include:  

  • the defendant's criminal history,  

  • the severity of the crime,  

  • the presence of aggravating factors,  

  • the harm caused,  

  • and the likelihood of the defendant's reintegration into society. 

The defendant's willingness to plead guilty may also play a role. In some cases, a prosecutor might offer to classify the offense as a misdemeanor in exchange for a guilty plea.  

Interestingly, some states even allow judges to delay the determination of whether a crime is a misdemeanor or a felony until after the defendant completes probation. This approach enables the judge to assess the defendant's behavior and progress before making a final decision. Because of the variables at play and all that's at stake, it's crucial to seek legal counsel from an experienced criminal defense attorney in your area when you're facing charges for a wobbler crime.  

Have an Attorney Address Your Questions

Understanding your legal situation is the first step towards making empowered decisions. Having knowledgeable legal representation can make a world of difference. If you or someone you know is facing a wobbler offense in Columbus, Dublin, Westerville, Gahanna, or elsewhere in Ohio, don't hesitate to reach out to the Wolfe & Mote Law Group, LLC. Their trial experience and commitment to their clients make them a trusted support system for you through this challenging time. Reach out today to schedule a consultation.