Multiple charges can stem from a single incident when overlapping criminal statutes or dual jurisdictions are involved. Determining how these charges interact requires an analysis of constitutional protections, sentencing procedures, and prosecutorial discretion. If you are seeking insight into if you can receive multiple charges for the same incident, we can help.
The Dallas criminal defense lawyers at The Law Offices of Randall B. Isenberg have extensive experience with cases in which multiple charges are filed and can give advice on key issues surrounding multiple charges for one accident, including which charges are legal, the best defense to use when charged with multiple offenses, and more.
For a more in-depth explanation, take advantage of the free initial consultation that our law firm provides.
Is Multiple Charges the Same as Double Jeopardy?
No. The Fifth Amendment prohibits double jeopardy, which prevents prosecution for the same offense after an acquittal or conviction as defined by the U.S. Supreme Court in Green v. United States (1957).
However, this protection against double punishment for the “same offense” does allow separate sovereigns to pursue charges for the same criminal act under the dual sovereignty doctrine established in United States v. Lanza (1922).
When Can You Face Multiple Charges for the Same Incident?
The legal statutes around being prosecuted for multiple offenses can be difficult to understand in some instances. The basis of being charged multiple charges is that the legal theory is different for each offense, such as different aspects of an incident. To clarify, the following circumstances highlight when multiple charges are legal.
Dual Sovereignty Allows State and Federal Charges
An incident can violate both state and federal laws, enabling prosecutors at both levels to file charges under the dual sovereignty doctrine. For example, in Heath v. Alabama (1985), the Supreme Court upheld a conviction on state murder charges after an earlier guilty plea for the same murder in Georgia.
Different Charges Can Apply to the Same Actions
Just because a defendant is acquitted or convicted of one charge does not necessarily preclude additional charges from the same facts. In a 1970 precedent case, the Court found that an acquittal on a robbery charge did not bar further prosecution because the second trial required proving different elements.
There are legal principles that protect you from being charged with the same crime twice, but there are also loopholes in which being charged for multiple offenses in the same incident is completely legal. To confirm if your rights are being fully protected, it is best to consult with a qualified criminal defense attorney near you regarding the details of your case.
Sentencing Enhancements Allow “Piling On” Charges
Multiple charges do not always violate double jeopardy if they carry different sentencing implications, serve alternative policy goals, or require distinct proof. Repeat offender laws and three-strikes statutes are common examples.
What are Some Examples of Facing Multiple Charges?
Being charged with multiple charges must involve separate and distinct elements, as exemplified in the following charges:
- Robbery and assault charges: If a defendant assaults someone in the course of a theft, they can face distinct charges, prosecution, and punishment for theft, battery, and armed criminal action.
- DUI and vehicular homicide: In alcohol-involved vehicular deaths, offenders often face both DUI charges for excessive intoxication and additional homicide penalties tied to causing a fatality while under the influence.
- Drug possession and intent to distribute: Prosecutors routinely file simple drug possession charges along with counts related to perceived intent to manufacture or sell the substances.
How Can Multiple Charges Be Handled?
- Number of convictions allowed varies: In some cases, charges for both greater and lesser offenses can yield only one conviction, as outlined in Brown v. Ohio (1977). However, dual convictions are permissible when two distinct criminal acts are involved.
- Consolidation is sometimes possible: Joinder rules generally allow consolidation of multiple charges from a single act or series of acts. However, complicated, high-profile, and multi-jurisdiction cases often involve some severing of counts.
- The sentencing procedure has checks: While “stacking” charges could increase potential penalties, constitutional safeguards in sentencing fact-finding provide avenues to minimize excessive punishment under certain circumstances.
What Should You Do if Facing Multiple Charges?
The complexity of facing multiple charges for the same incident demands legal help to navigate transparency in the charging process, guarantee procedural fairness, and advocate for reasonable punishment limits. Contact a criminal defense lawyer as quickly as possible to prevent injustice.
Hiring a lawyer for multiple charges is necessary for the following reasons:
Legal Experience Matters
Retaining counsel intimately familiar with sovereign intersection, joinder rules, applicable charging patterns, and standards for challenging duplicative punishment is crucial for mounting an adequate defense against compound charges. Check state bar association references thoroughly.
Understand Prosecution Strategy
The nature and sheer number of charges, in part, reflect the relative strength of evidence, resources dedicated to the case, and signaling of potential bargaining priorities. A seasoned legal professional can prove pivotal for your case.
Craft an Individualized Defense
More charges create more variables for leverage. An effective cross-charge strategy analyzes each count’s procedural posture, grading nuances, and sentencing weight separately while keeping the big-picture rights implications in focus at all times. A successful defense lawyer will know how to craft a strong defense to impact your case positively.