July 8, 2009 By Wallin & Klarich

Why You Need the Assistance of a Criminal Defense Law Firm

Often, a defendant is charged with multiple crimes stemming out of the same incident. For example, a person involved in a bar fight may be charged with both disturbing the peace and assault in California. While both charges are based on the same course of conduct, it is still possible to be found guilty of violating both laws.

In California, the crime of simple assault carries a maximum of six months of jail time while the crime of disturbing the peace carries a maximum of 90 days jail time. However, it is important to realize that while multiple convictions based on a single act or course of conduct are allowed, multiple punishments are barred. This means that a defendant found guilty of both assault and disturbing the peace will only be exposed to the higher of the maximum punishments, in this case, six months in jail for the assault conviction. Other sentences for convictions from the same act must be stayed.

The key to understanding the limit on multiple punishments is whether the course of conduct was in fact an indivisible single transaction. This will depend on the actor’s intent and objective. In the case of the bar patron starting a fight, if the court determines that his intent was to fight an individual, while he can be convicted of the two crimes, he cannot be punished for both.

There are several exceptions to this general rule. Acts of violence with separate victims, multiple sex acts, and certain vehicle code violations are statutorily exempt from this law. Further, if the court can point to a separate objective or similar but consecutive objectives for one of the crimes, it will not be subject to the bar on multiple punishments.

If you are facing multiple criminal charges stemming from a single incident, you should speak with an experienced San Diego criminal defense attorney, like those at Wallin & Klarich, today. These sorts of factual distinctions can often be decided both ways, and a skilled attorney is invaluable to have on your side if you face the possibility of multiple sentences. Call Wallin & Klarich today at 1-888-280-6839 or visit online at www.wklaw.com to learn more about your case and what can be done.

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