Suppose you are alleged to have been involved in criminal activity. When you are informed of what you have been accused of, you might be surprised to see that you have been charged with more than one crime.
But is it possible for the State to prosecute you for multiple offenses?
Charges for two or more crimes can arise from the same alleged incident or separate incidents. Contrary to what you might think, facing multiple counts of an offense in one case is not considered double jeopardy. The State can seek a conviction for more than one alleged violation. If you are found guilty, you would be sentenced for each.
How Multiple Charges Can Be Levied
You can face charges for more than one offense in a couple of different ways. First, you could be accused of multiple law violations in the same incident. To illustrate, let’s say you allegedly drove your car through a crowded street. You struck two people and crashed into a restaurant.
Although this is one transaction, multiple charges can arise. For instance, you could face two counts of felonious assault for causing serious bodily injury to the pedestrians you hit. You may also face one count of vandalism for causing harm to an occupied structure. In all, you have three criminal charges against you.
The second way you could be hit with multiple charges is if you are accused of two or more offenses occurring on different occasions. For instance, say you are alleged to have engaged in sexual activity with two different minors in two separate incidents. You may face two counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor and two counts of importuning (soliciting a minor to engage in sexual conduct).
Facing Multiple Charges Is Not the Same as Double Jeopardy
The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides that a person cannot be charged for the same crime twice. For instance, suppose you were accused of causing serious physical harm to one person. The jury acquits you of felonious assault. You cannot be put on trial again for that same offense.
However, if you are facing two felonious assault charges for striking two different people, the State can pursue prosecution on both counts even though the alleged violations arose from the same incident.
Sentencing Upon a Conviction for Multiple Crimes
If you have been charged with more than one offense, several different outcomes are possible.
You could be:
- Acquitted on all counts. Returning to the example of striking others with a vehicle, you could be found not guilty for both felonious assault charges and the vandalism charge. You would not face criminal penalties in this case.
- Convicted on some counts, and acquitted on others. The judge or jury might find you guilty of vandalism but not felonious assault. In this case, you would face penalties only for the vandalism charge.
- Convicted on all counts. You could be found guilty of both felonious assault charges and vandalism. You would face separate penalties for each. For example, you could be sentenced to up to 24 years in prison for felonious assault (maximum 12 years for each count) and up to 12 months for vandalism.
If you are convicted of two or more charges, the judge will decide how your term of imprisonment will run. They may run concurrently, meaning they happen together. Or, they may run consecutively, meaning one sentence must finish before the next begins.
Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney
Regardless of the facts of your case, it’s crucial to have a lawyer on your side throughout. If you have been accused of multiple crimes, your attorney can seek to have some of the charges reduced or dismissed. And if that’s not possible, they can aggressively challenge the allegations against you.