About Misdemeanor Offenses in California, Definition, Types & Punishment
CA Misdemeanor Crimes Explained
by San Diego Attorneys
A California Misdemeanor is a mid-range criminal offense. It’s not the worst, but it’s not something looked upon with indifference either. Having it, or a Felony Offense, on your record is generally understood as having a “criminal record.”
California’s Penal Code defines a misdemeanor as everything that is not an infraction nor “punishable with death, by imprisonment in the state prison, or … by imprisonment in a county jail under the provisions of subdivision (h) of Section 1170.” (California Penal Code § 17(a)).
Every other crime or public offense is a misdemeanor except those offenses that are classified as infractions.
Types of Misdemeanors
There are three (3) types of misdemeanors:
- Straight Misdemeanor,
- Misdemeanor in Fact &
- Misdemeanor That Wobbles Down.
A straight misdemeanor is a criminal offense that can only be charged as a misdemeanor. This means it can’t be charged as a felony and it can’t be charged as an infraction. This also means it can’t be reduced to an infraction.
Misdemeanor In Fact
A misdemeanor in fact is a felony charge that turns into a misdemeanor because of the actions of the court. It occurs when the defendant is punished by something other than prison.
Misdemeanor that Wobbles Down (ie a Wobblet)
California recognizes charges that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or an infraction. These are called “Wobblets.”
A defendant that has been found guilty or has pled guilty to a wobblet can motion to have a judge reduce it to an infraction, even long after the court case is completed.
Common Misdemeanor Offenses
California Criminal law recognizes hundreds of misdemeanor offenses. They are found in the Vehicle Code, Penal Code, Health & Safety Code, Corporations Code and other California Codes.
Common misdemeanor offenses include:
- Driving Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol
- Under the Influence of a Prohibited Drug
- Soliciting, Engaging in, or Agreeing to Commit Prostitution
- Petty Theft & Shoplifting
- Indecent Exposure
Penalties of a Misdemeanor Conviction
A misdemeanor offense under California law is punishable by up one (1) year in jail, fines, restitution and court programs.
Some misdemeanor sex offenses require registration under PC § 290 as a California Sex Offender.