Individuals can be charged with multiple crimes associated with the same act in California. However, while individuals can face multiple criminal charges, they can only face one punishment for the overall criminal act under the law.
Penal Code 654 forbids multiple punishments for the same act in California. PC 654 is closely tied to the constitutional rules on double jeopardy, which prevents people from facing multiple punishments for a single crime. Find out more about PC 654 and how the Simmrin Law Group can help.
Protections Offered Under Penal Code 654 in California
PC 654 protects the rights of individuals charged with multiple criminal acts in California. Specifically, it restricts the extent of the punishment people can receive if they are accused of committing multiple crimes in one action.
Consider the following example. A man decides to enter his neighbor’s apartment and takes his neighbor’s television. He has committed both petty theft and trespassing to carry out this act.
However, because he committed both of these crimes in the same situation, he cannot be punished for both crimes separately. According to PC 654, the court can only punish him for one of these crimes.
PC 654 dictates that courts punish individuals based on the most serious crimes committed. For example, if one criminal act would lead to six months in jail, and the second would lead to a year, the court would have to punish the accused with one year in jail. That is because this is the more serious crime of the two.
Double Jeopardy and Penal Code 654 in California
PC 654 is closely associated with the double jeopardy clause. This clause is found in the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution. The double jeopardy clause restricts how the court can prosecute an individual. According to this clause, the courts cannot:
- Prosecute someone for an offense after they are acquitted
- Convict someone twice for the same offense
- Punish someone multiple times for the same offense
The court system in California also uses a double jeopardy law. You can find this law in Penal Code 687. PC 654 works alongside double jeopardy regulations in some situations in that it too prevents people from facing multiple punishments for the same act. The Simmrin Law Group can help you defend yourself under the double jeopardy clause.
Determining What Constitutes a Transaction Under PC 654
California PC 654 applies to punishments for the same act or transaction. California courts use a “transaction test” to determine whether multiple crimes constitute a single transaction or multiple transactions.
The transaction test takes into consideration whether the intent of the multiple crimes was to achieve one objective or whether they were part of separate objectives. The example of breaking into an apartment to steal a television involves multiple crimes with a single objective. The break-in was to facilitate the crime of stealing the television.
On the other hand, if a person commits the television theft and then goes and slashes the tires of another neighbor’s car, the vandalism would count as another transaction. These acts are distinct because the objective was completely separate from the television theft.
In this example, while the defendant could only receive one punishment for trespassing and theft, they could receive a second punishment for the vandalism.
Penal Code 654 and Joinders in California
Prosecutors in California sometimes join criminal charges in Los Angeles together. They may take this step if multiple crimes are associated with the same act. This process is called a “joinder.” Joinders are often used if multiple offenses:
- Occur during the same transaction or act
- Are tied to two or more connected transactions
- Are part of an interconnected plan or scheme
Basically, a joinder means the prosecution does not need to file multiple cases if multiple offenses are associated with one act. A joinder allows the prosecution to blend charges together. Misdemeanors and felonies can even be connected with a joinder.
A criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles can provide you with more information on how to fight multiple charges in California. Members of our team can help you handle a joinder in California.
How a Lawyer Can Help Protect You With PC 654
Your lawyer may be able to help you prove that the crimes you committed were part of the same transaction and should be grouped together under Penal Code 654. This could protect you from being sentenced for the offenses separately and instead result in a single penalty for the offenses.
A criminal defense lawyer can help to build your case to show that the objective for seemingly separate crimes was the same. Talk to a legal professional at the Simmrin Law Group for help handling your case today.
Legal Defenses and the Double Jeopardy Clause
There are times when the double jeopardy clause can work in your defense in California. Make sure you tell your lawyer if you:
- Were charged with the same offense before
- You were previously acquitted of the charges you’re now facing
- The charges you’re facing now were dismissed in the past
- You were already convicted of the charge you’re facing
- You took a plea bargain in the past for the charge you’re facing now
Any of these factors can make it even easier for your lawyer to help you handle a criminal charge in Los Angeles. Your lawyer can also make sure you do not face multiple punishments for the same crime in California.
Find Out More About Penal Code 654 in California
Here at the Simmrin Law Group, we understand that California prohibits multiple punishments for the same act under PC 654. We can help you fight back. Contact a criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles today for a free consultation by calling or filling out our online contact form.