Certain domestic violence offenses are considered wobbler crimes. In California, wobbler crimes are those that can be charged as either misdemeanors or felonies. In wobbler crime cases, the prosecuting attorney can decide to file charges as a misdemeanor or a felony. How the prosecutor decides to charge an offense is determined on a case-by-case basis, so it's important to learn about the factors used when making such a determination.
In domestic violence wobbler cases, a few factors will be considered when deciding how to charge the offense, including:
The Defendant's History of Prior Offenses
Even one prior domestic violence conviction could easily tip your case into felony territory. Meanwhile, if you have a clean criminal record, it is more likely you will be charged with a misdemeanor. This factor is considered in many California wobbler cases. In some cases, a good criminal defense attorney can file a motion to strike a prior. In the motion, the attorney could argue prior offenses should not be considered and held against the defendant. If a prior offense is stricken, it cannot be considered in the existing case.
The Victim's Injuries
An injury is referred to as a “traumatic condition” in California domestic violence laws. A traumatic condition is defined as a condition caused by a physical force. The condition can be internal or external, minor or serious. Examples of traumatic conditions include a bruise, wound, a broken bone, suffocation, or strangulation. Suffocation or strangulation are further defined as impeding normal breathing or blood circulation of a person by applying pressure to the neck.
If the victim suffered no serious injuries, the judge might see a misdemeanor charge as being more appropriate. If the victim had to go to the emergency room, had bruises or cuts, or sustained a serious injury, the judge may decide a felony charge is more appropriate. If you inflicted serious bodily injury on the victim, you could be charged with aggravated domestic battery or corporal injury on a spouse. If you did not inflict injury on the victim, you could be charged with domestic battery, which doesn't require the victim has suffered injuries.
The Facts and Circumstances of the Case
Other than the victim's injuries, other facts and circumstances of the case can affect the charges and sentencing. Speak with an attorney to get a better idea of what might influence your case.
The Difference Between a Misdemeanor and a Felony
It's important to understand what can affect your case because the differences between a misdemeanor and a felony charge are significant. For example, corporal injury on a spouse is a wobbler domestic violence crime. It is punishable by up to one year in a county jail and/or a fine of up to $6,000 if charged as a misdemeanor. Conversely, it is punishable by two, three, or four years in a state prison if charged as a felony.
You should never handle a wobbler case on your own. The differences between a misdemeanor and a felony domestic violence charge are not inconsequential. The judge can sentence you to state prison if you are convicted of a felony. You can even lose some of your rights if you are convicted of a felony. For example, a felony conviction can affect your rights to vote and even bear arms. Some attorneys are able to get their client's felony charge reduced to a misdemeanor domestic violence charge such as domestic battery. Others can get their client's corporal injury to a spouse offense charged as a misdemeanor instead of a felony.
Work closely with an experienced domestic violence defense attorney if you are facing charges for a wobbler domestic violence offense. An attorney can help you prepare a strategic defense to your charges and help you get your felony charge reduced to a misdemeanor. Doing so takes a thorough understanding of the factors that influence both the prosecuting attorney's and the judge's decisions on how to charge and sentence you and an understanding of how you can leverage the details of your case to reach a more favorable outcome.
If you are facing charges for a domestic violence offense, we can help. California attorney Christopher Martens knows California domestic violence defense and will help you fight for your rights. With over ten years of criminal defense experience, Mr. Martens has handled thousands of cases and has helped many Californians fight their charges. Serving the Visalia and Fresno areas, The Law Offices of Christopher Martens can provide expert criminal defense counsel. Call our office at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.