The criminal justice system has two primary types of crimes: felonies and misdemeanors. Felonies are the most serious type of crime and are typically punishable by imprisonment for more than one year. Conversely, misdemeanors are less serious offenses that are typically punishable by fines or shorter jail sentences.
However, there is another type of crime that falls somewhere in between felonies and misdemeanors: wobblers. A wobbler crime is an offense that can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances of the case. For example, if someone is accused of theft, the prosecutor may charge the offense as a misdemeanor if the value of the stolen property is low. But if the value of the stolen property is high, the prosecutor may charge the offense as a felony.
Additionally, a first-time DUI offense may be classified as a misdemeanor, but if the offender has multiple DUI offenses on their record, the offense could be classified as a felony.
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Common Wobbler Crimes in Kentucky
In Kentucky, some of the most common wobbler crimes include driving under the influence (DUI), possession of a controlled substance, and theft.
Driving Under The Influence
Driving under the influence is typically charged as a misdemeanor in Kentucky. However, if the offender has three prior DUIs within a ten-year period or there were other aggravating circumstances, such as an accident that resulted in serious injury or death, it can be charged as a felony.
Possession of a Controlled Substance
Possession of a controlled substance is most often charged as a misdemeanor in Kentucky, but not always. It will depend on several factors, such as the substance involved, the amount, and whether charges are first-, second- or third-degree.
Theft can be classified as either a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the value of the property stolen, with more serious charges and penalties reserved for higher-value items.
When Is a Crime Charged as a Felony?
In general, whether a crime is charged as a felony or misdemeanor will depend on the following factors:
Prior Criminal History
One factor that is considered when deciding whether to charge a crime as a felony or misdemeanor is your criminal history. If you have no prior criminal convictions, this will weigh in favor of charging the current offense as a misdemeanor.
Severity of the Crime
Another factor that will be considered is the severity of the crime. For example, if you were arrested for DUI and there were serious injuries or deaths related to the DUI, you will be charged with a felony.
Age of Defendant
Another factor that may be considered is the age of the defendant. In many cases, minors will receive lighter penalties and charges. This is because minors are not held to adult standards under the law and are typically given leniency when it comes to penalties for criminal offenses.
This decision will always depend on the specific facts of your case and prior criminal history, so make sure you speak with a criminal defense lawyer right away.
Wobbler DUIs in Kentucky
In Kentucky, a DUI is considered one of the most common wobbler offenses. The prosecutor will decide how to charge the offense based on the facts of the case and your criminal history. If this is your first DUI offense and there are no aggravating factors, you will likely be charged with a misdemeanor. If convicted of a first-time misdemeanor DUI in Kentucky, you will face up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. You will also have your driver’s license suspended for up to six months.
However, if you have prior DUI convictions, someone was injured or killed as a result of your drunk driving, or other aggravating factors are present, you will be charged with a felony DUI. If you’re convicted of a fourth-time felony DUI, or these other aggravating factors are present, you will spend at least 120 days in jail and be required to pay a fine of up to $10,000. Your driver’s license will also be suspended for up to five years.
Other aggravating factors for DUI cases include the following:
- Driving more than 30 mph above the speed limit
- Driving a motor vehicle the wrong way on a limited-access highway
- Operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration above .15
- Refusing to submit to a blood or breath test unless it is your first DUI
- Driving with a passenger younger than 12
This is a partial list of factors that could apply, depending on the case.
Schedule a Free Case Review With a Trusted Lexington Criminal Defense Lawyer
Although wobblers can be serious crimes, they often give prosecutors and judges some flexibility in terms of charging and sentencing. If you have been charged with a wobbler, it is important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help you navigate the legal process and protect your rights. Contact our law firm Suhre & Associates, LLC today at 859-569-4014 to schedule a free consultation.