In California, all crime convictions are either misdemeanors or felonies. Misdemeanors are considered less serious and generally include limited time in county jail, fines and probation; felonies include terms in prison.
“Wobblers” are criminal offenses that can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony. Felony wobblers are often punished less severely than standard felonies; the defendant may receive time in county jail and probation versus prison and parole. The basic difference is in the punishment that can be imposed.
A felony can be reduced to a misdemeanor through what is known as post-conviction relief. This is made possible by a series of statutes in the California Penal Code that allow individuals to distance themselves from their mistakes, including the reduction of felony “wobblers” to misdemeanors so that they can then be dismissed and expunged.
Because probation is included in misdemeanor convictions only, it is not surprising that probation is also a requirement for any felony reduction. A judge may not discharge non-wobbler felonies (sometimes referred to as “straight” felonies), even if you didn’t serve time in prison.
Once a felony has been reduced to a misdemeanor, however, the state’s penal code states it is treated as a misdemeanor for “all purposes.” This means that the felony offense is treated as though it were originally charged as a misdemeanor.