In a recent blog post, we discussed lesser included offenses and the merger doctrine. Together, these two legal ideas prevent you from being convicted under different criminal statutes for the same act, in violation of the Double Jeopardy Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
However, this only applies to criminal convictions. You can still be charged for both a crime and for all of that crime's lesser included offenses. In fact, criminal suspects in Maine are frequently charged for all of these infractions: It is a very common prosecutorial tactic, meant to provide law enforcement a kind of safety net if they are not able to prove everything necessary for the most serious offense they're charging.
Lesser Included Offenses
Some crimes in Maine are, in essence, made up of a different crime, plus an additional factor. Some others are basically just two different crimes, rolled into one. For example, murder is basically manslaughter, plus the intent to kill, while robbery is essentially theft and assault, rolled into one act.
A “lesser included offense” is one of those smaller crimes that is a necessary component of a larger crime. In the case of robbery, for example, both theft and assault are lesser included offenses.
Alternative Charges Can Be for Lesser Included Offenses
If you get arrested for a crime, you can find yourself being charged for that crime, as well as any lesser included offenses of that particular crime. This can create an overwhelming feeling of being charged for everything in the book, and can often lead to a dozen or so criminal charges for a single act. However, the reality is that prosecutors will throw absolutely every potential charge that they can think of at you, as well as all of those charges lesser included offenses, in order to get the biggest conviction they can manage or, in the alternative, a conviction for a lesser offense.
This is called “charging in the alternative,” and is a common prosecutorial tactic throughout the United States. By including all of a crime's lesser included offenses alongside a criminal charge, prosecutors can still get a criminal conviction if they end up being able to prove some of the most serious parts of a crime, but not all of it.
This is why many suspects who get charged for murder in the state of Maine also face charges for manslaughter, as well. By doing this, prosecutors know that, if they end up being unable to prove that there was an intent to kill, they can still pursue their manslaughter charge, rather than be left with nothing.
Maine Defense Attorney William T. Bly
Even armed with this knowledge, it can still feel overwhelming if you suddenly find yourself facing a dozen or more criminal charges for one single act. Having a solid criminal defense attorney like William T. Bly on your side, however, can prevent those charges from becoming costly convictions. Contact him online or call his law office at (207) 571-8146.