"Wobblers" in Nevada Law (NRS 193.330)
(Explained by Las Vegas Criminal Defense Attorneys)

Attempting to commit certain crimes in Nevada can be punished as either a felony in Nevada or a gross misdemeanor in Nevada. Ultimately it is up to the judge, so the defense attorney's job is to try to persuade the court to go easy on the defendant by taking the gross misdemeanor route.

In this article our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys answer frequently-asked-questions on how wobblers can help defendants achieve reduced charges and laxer penalties. Scroll down for more:

  1. What are "wobblers" in Nevada?
  2. What are the benefits of "wobblers" in Nevada?
  3. Which Nevada crimes are considered "wobblers"?
  4. What are the penalties for "wobblers" in Nevada?
  5. How do defendants get "wobbler" offenses reduced to gross misdemeanors in Nevada?
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Judges decide whether "wobbler" crimes in Nevada are punished as felonies or gross misdemeanors.

1) What are "wobblers" in Nevada?

Wobblers are crimes in Nevada that can be treated as either a felony or a gross misdemeanor. Judges have the discretion to decide whether a defendant who has been charged with the crime will face felony consequences or gross misdemeanor consequences. Since gross misdemeanors are less serious than felonies, defense attorneys always try to persuade the judge to choose gross misdemeanor convictions.

2) What are the benefits of "wobblers" in Nevada

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Having a wobbler crime reduced from a felony to a gross misdemeanor in Nevada may help the person's job prospects.

People convicted of "wobbler" crimes in Nevada may have hope that the judge will treat it as a gross misdemeanor instead of a felony. Felonies are the most serious class of crimes in Nevada. Gross misdemeanors are the next less serious class of crimes. (Straight misdemeanors in Nevada are the least serious class of crimes, though no wobblers may become misdemeanors.)

While any criminal conviction is never good news, gross misdemeanors are much better than felonies in Nevada. Gross misdemeanors carry less of a social stigma, have laxer punishments, and can be sealed years before felony criminal records can (in most cases). Learn more about sealing Nevada criminal records.

3) Which Nevada crimes are considered "wobblers"?

Before learning about "wobblers," it is necessary to understand "attempt crimes" in Nevada. Like it sounds, an attempt crime is taking decisive actions in furtherance of criminal activity but falling short of carrying it out. For example, a drug dealer who makes a verbal agreement with a buyer to sell him Xanax can be prosecuted for attempted drug selling if the buyer backs out last minute. Note that merely thinking about committing a crime does not count as an attempt.

Wobbler crimes in Nevada are attempts to commit category C felonies in Nevada, category D felonies in Nevada, or category E felonies in Nevada. Some of the most common crimes that fall into these categories include the following:

o Category C felonies in Nevada:

o Category D felonies in Nevada:

o Category E felonies in Nevada:

In short, wobblers comprise attempts to commit any Nevada crime classified as a category C, D, or E felony.1

4) What are the penalties for "wobblers" in Nevada?

It depends on the category of crime that the defendant was charged with:

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Wobblers crimes in Nevada are defined as attempting to commit a category C, D, or E felony.
Category C felonies in Nevada:

People charged with attempting to commit a category C crime in Nevada may be convicted of either a category D felony or a gross misdemeanor. Category D felonies carry 1 - 4 years in Nevada State Prison and possibly up to $5,000 in fines. Gross misdemeanors carry up to 364 days in jail and/or up to $2,000 in fines.

Note that a person's criminal record for a category D felony may be sealed after 12 years. And the person's criminal record for a gross misdemeanor can be sealed after 7 years.

Category D felonies in Nevada:

People charged with attempting to commit a category D crime in Nevada may be convicted of either a category E felony or a gross misdemeanor. Category E felonies are usually probationable but can carry 1 - 4 years in prison and possibly up to $5,000 in fines. Gross misdemeanors carry up to 364 days in jail and/or up to $2,000 in fines.

Note that a person's criminal record for either a category E felony or a gross misdemeanor may be sealed after 7 years.

Category E felonies in Nevada:

People charged with attempting to commit a category E crime in Nevada may be convicted of either a category E felony or a gross misdemeanor. Category E felonies are usually probationable but can carry 1 - 4 years in prison and possibly up to $5,000 in fines. Gross misdemeanors carry up to 364 days in jail and/or up to $2,000 in fines.

Note that a person's criminal record for either a category E felony or a gross misdemeanor may be sealed after 7 years.

In short, wobblers are punished either as a felony (category D or E) or as a gross misdemeanor. Henderson criminal defense attorney Michael Becker gives an example of how this works.

Example: Alex gets charged in Las Vegas Justice Court with attempting to sell Ambien (a category C felony), attempting to possess Ambien for the purpose of selling it (a category D felony), and attempting to possess Ambien (a category E felony). Since Alex is accused of attempted these three drug crimes without succeeding, his charges are considered "wobblers." Since selling Ambien is a category C felony, the judge may treat it as either a category D felony or as a gross misdemeanor. Since possessing Ambien for sale is a category D felony, the judge may treat it as either a category E felony or as a gross misdemeanor. And since selling Ambien is a category E felony, the judge may treat it as either a category E felony or as a gross misdemeanor. Since Alex has no past criminal record and appears remorseful, the judge gives him a break and treats them all as gross misdemeanors. So in the end, Alex is convicted for three gross misdemeanors and faces up to 1,092 days in jail and/or up to $6,000 in fines (which is three times the penalty for a single gross misdemeanor).

If Alex in the above example had a lengthy criminal history prior to this case, the judge may not be so generous and instead insist he face a category D sentence for selling Ambien and category E sentences for possessing the Ambien for sale and for personal use.

5) How do defendants get "wobbler" offenses reduced to gross misdemeanors in Nevada?

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Prosecutors and defense attorneys may agree that a wobbler can be reduced to a gross misdemeanor as part of a plea deal in Nevada.

 Nevada judges have discretion over whether a wobbler crime is treated as a felony or a gross misdemeanor. The defense attorney's job is to convince the judge that the defendant is worthy of the lower sentence. In making the case for a gross misdemeanor sentence, the defense attorney often highlights the following (if applicable):

  • The defendant's lack of a criminal history
  • The defendant's poor physical or mental health
  • The defendant's positive contributions to the community
  • The defendant's remorse

In many cases, the defense attorney can negotiate with the prosecution ahead of time to craft a plea deal that ends with the defendant getting a gross misdemeanor conviction instead of a felony conviction. As long as the defense attorney and prosecution agree, it is likely the Nevada judge will rubber stamp it during the Nevada sentencing hearing.

Arrested in Nevada? Call an attorney...

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Call 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) for a criminal defense attorney.

If you are facing felony charges in Nevada, call our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) for a FREE consultation. We may be able to get it reduced to a gross misdemeanor, a misdemeanor, or we may even be able to win a full dismissal of the charge without a trial.

For information on wobblers in California law, see our page on wobblers in California law.

Legal References:

1 NRS 193.330 Punishment for attempts.

      1. An act done with the intent to commit a crime, and tending but failing to accomplish it, is an attempt to commit that crime. A person who attempts to commit a crime, unless a different penalty is prescribed by statute, shall be punished as follows:

      (a) If the person is convicted of:

             (1) Attempt to commit a category A felony, for a category B felony by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 2 years and a maximum term of not more than 20 years.

             (2) Attempt to commit a category B felony for which the maximum term of imprisonment authorized by statute is greater than 10 years, for a category B felony by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 1 year and a maximum term of not more than 10 years.

             (3) Attempt to commit a category B felony for which the maximum term of imprisonment authorized by statute is 10 years or less, for a category C felony as provided in NRS 193.130.

             (4) Attempt to commit a category C felony, for a category D felony as provided in NRS 193.130, or for a gross misdemeanor by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than 364 days, or by a fine of not more than $2,000, or by both fine and imprisonment.

             (5) Attempt to commit a category D felony, for a category E felony as provided in NRS 193.130, or for a gross misdemeanor by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than 364 days, or by a fine of not more than $2,000, or by both fine and imprisonment.

             (6) Attempt to commit a category E felony, for a category E felony as provided in NRS 193.130, or for a gross misdemeanor by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than 364 days, or by a fine of not more than $2,000, or by both fine and imprisonment.

      (b) If the person is convicted of attempt to commit a misdemeanor, a gross misdemeanor or a felony for which a category is not designated by statute, by imprisonment for not more than one-half the longest term authorized by statute, or by a fine of not more than one-half the largest sum, prescribed upon conviction for the commission of the offense attempted, or by both fine and imprisonment.

      2. Nothing in this section protects a person who, in an unsuccessful attempt to commit one crime, does commit another and different one, from the punishment prescribed for the crime actually committed. A person may be convicted of an attempt to commit a crime, although it appears on the trial that the crime was consummated, unless the court in its discretion discharges the jury and directs the defendant to be tried for the crime itself.

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