Lesser Included Offense – Plea Bargain Option or Backup Charge to Ensure a Conviction

When someone is charged with a crime such as a felony, that charge is often accompanied by a lesser included offense of that greater crime.

Lesser included offense

Photo by: winnifredxoxo

Photo by: winnifredxoxo

A lesser included offense is a crime wherein the elements, or specific aspects needed to prove guilt of that crime are included within the greater crime being charged. In order for a lesser included offense to be valid, it must be impossible for the greater crime to be committed unless the lesser offense is as well. For instance, a class A misdemeanor assault would be the lesser included offense for third degree felony assault as it is impossible for someone to use “force or means likely to produce death or serious bodily injury to another” if they never caused any “substantial bodily injury”.

Use in traffic violations

Lesser included offenses come up frequently with traffic violations. An example would be if a person is arrested for reckless driving and exceeding the maximum speed limit by up to 25 mph. The first being a class B misdemeanor (greater offense), while the latter is a mere infraction (lesser included offense). Utah Code defines reckless driving as someone who “operates a vehicle in a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property”. Exceeding the speed limit in certain areas of circumstances can also fall under the same definition, but without a criminal charge attached.

One or the other

Photo by: Kyle Pearce

Photo by: Kyle Pearce

When a lesser included offense accompanies a greater offense, often the defendant cannot be convicted of both charges. Such would be the case with voluntary manslaughter and murder. If the defendant was found guilty it would be for either one or the other; not both. This can also apply to drug charges. Someone can be arrested for possession and possession with intent to distribute yet if the intent to distribute charge sticks the simple possession charge is void as it is already encompassed within the greater charge.

Lesser related offense

There are some lesser charges that are related in nature, yet not included in more severe crime. These are known as lesser related offenses. Possession is a lesser related offense to distribution and often goes hand in hand, yet possession is NOT a lesser included offense of distribution. Someone can be a middle man in a deal, never having the illegal drugs in their possession, and face distribution charges without the possession charges. If they did possess the drugs and sold them, then the possession charge would be a lesser related offense.

Use in plea bargains

Photo by: Karen Neoh

Photo by: Karen Neoh

A lesser included offense can be beneficial in defense cases as it can give the defendant an option to plead guilty to a lighter crime and have the more serious charge dropped. This is sometimes the case when there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty of the lesser crime but the defense may not want to risk the chance of the defendant being found guilty of the higher crime, so they accept the lesser offense in exchange for dropping the greater one.

Prosecution’s use of lesser charges

The defendant isn’t the only one that has the potential to benefit from lesser included offenses. The prosecution will often add a lesser included offense to ensure that the defendant will be found guilty of something. This backup charge helps the prosecution ensure a conviction when they may doubt whether or not the more serious charge would stick. Since they can be used for or against the defendant, it is always wise to consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to help guide you through the court proceedings and know when to accept or fight lesser included offenses.

Aggravated Assault for Defending Home from Intruder

A Salt Lake City man was arrested for aggravated assault for defending his aging mother-in-law’s vacation home from an intruder.

The stake out

Photo by: Mesa Tactical

Photo by: Mesa Tactical

51 year old Glen Decker and his wife are caretakers of his mother-in-law’s home in Salt Lake City which is used mainly for vacationing. Upon regular inspection of the home, the Decker’s realized that someone had been breaking into the residence. To put a stop to the burglary, the vigilantes armed themselves and hid out in the dark unlocked home; hoping to catch the thieves red-handed.

Bait, set, trap

The potential repeat offenders took the bait of an apparently vacant home and let themselves in unlawfully, only to be confronted by the Decker’s waiting inside. With a gun in hand, Glen Decker ordered the two thieves to stay put until police arrived. The female suspect complied, while the male suspect decided to make a run for it instead. As the intruder tried to flee the home, Decker shot him once in the abdomen. The chase continued outside the home as the runaway burglar made it to his get-away car only to have the vehicle shot at multiple times by Decker. The suspect later checked himself into the hospital in serious condition for a single gunshot wound to the stomach and Glen Decker was arrested for aggravated assault and weapons charges.

Stand, not chase

Photo by: Elliott Brown

Photo by: Elliott Brown

Utah has a stand your ground law detailed in Utah Code 76-2-402 allowing residents to protect themselves or others from danger by using deadly force if needed. What some may not realize is this does not give permission to be confrontational. The stand your ground law only applies if “the person reasonably believes that force is necessary to prevent death or serious bodily injury”. If a suspect is not posing an immediate threat, there is no justification in using deadly force; stand your ground laws would likely not apply for someone who is chasing an unarmed party.

La casa de mi familia

While Utah may not encourage residents to chase and shoot persons who are committing a non-violent crime, there are laws allowing homeowners (and possibly caretakers) to protect their place of residence from intruders. This is known as Castle Doctrine. Utah’s version of Castle Doctrine is found in Utah Code 76-2-405 which discusses “force in defense of habitation”. This law has certain stipulations that must apply in order to use potential deadly force in defending a home. The resident must believe that force is necessary to prevent a violent intruder or to “prevent the commission of [a] felony” in the home. Also, “the person using force or deadly force in defense of habitation is presumed ( . . . ) to have acted reasonably and had a reasonable fear of imminent peril of death or serious bodily injury ( . . . )”.

Aggravated assault

Aggravated Assault

Photo by: Chris Heald

Granted breaking and entering is against the law, it does not allow a person to detain a suspect with physical force or violence. If a violent intruder tries to enter your home, stop them; if they attempt to retreat, let them. It is not up to everyday residents to take the law into their own hands unless they feel they are in danger. When someone’s actions have the potential to cause unnecessary serious bodily harm or death, that person may face charges of aggravated assault. Someone found guilty of aggravated assault faces the same penalties as the individual facing burglary charges. Both are considered third degree felonies punishable by up to five years and prison and a possible fine of $5,000. Anyone facing charges stemming from an attempt to stop an intruder should contact a criminal defense attorney immediately to avoid serving time behind bars with the burglar.

Utah Ex-Con Charged with Gruesome Murder in Washington

An ex-con who had served time in a Utah State Prison was charged with the gruesome murder of a Washington State woman last Monday.

Murder and dismemberment

murder

Photo by: tdlucas5000

37 year old John Robert Charlton was charged with the murder of Ingrid Lyne of Renton, Washington after police discovered portions of the woman’s dismembered body in a recycle bin in Seattle. The 40 year old nurse and mother of three daughters had been on a date with Charlton to a Mariner’s baseball game over the weekend but hadn’t been heard of since. When police located the body parts including a head and then received information of the missing woman, they realized the cases were connected and arrested Charlton for murder. More of Lyne’s body parts were then located as well as a saw which was believed to be the tool used to dismember her body.

Was the murder preventable?

When a horrible act is committed, many people may wonder if there was any way the crime could have been prevented. Sometimes crimes catch everyone by surprise, even those closest to the accused. Regarding the murder of Ingrid Lyne however, there are various details in John Charlton’s past that may have been red flags. While these warnings were regrettably not known to Lyne, they might have been recognized by law enforcement and those who have had their own personal dealings with Charlton.

Criminal history

Photo by: Victor

Photo by: Victor

The murder of Ingrid Lyne wasn’t Charlton’s first run in with the law. Prior to Lyne’s murder, in Washington State Charlton had been charged with assault in 1997 and negligent driving in 1998. In 2006, Charlton was convicted and sentenced to 1 to 15 years in the Utah State Prison for felony attempted aggravated robbery. Of that sentence, Charlton served just shy of 2 years before he was released by the Utah Board of Pardons and Parole without the supervision of parole officer. Some claim this lack of supervision may have contributed to him being arrested again in 2009 for misdemeanor battery in Idaho and then felony theft in Montana the same year. In Montana he again served time in prison; this time no more than 5 years. There is no information available at this time regarding whether or not Charlton was under the supervision of a Montana parole officer; however some critics of the parole system are doubtful.

Mental uncertainty

Charlton not only had a history of crime, but he also showed signs of being mentally unstable and possibly dangerous as long as 10 years ago. Prior to his arrest in Utah in 2006, Charlton made unsettling threats to his parents at their home south of Seattle. He showed them a copy of the gruesome movie “Hannibal” and eerily cautioned his mom while referencing to it. He also told his parents that he was having a hard time dealing with life and he was questioning his mental stability. Charlton’s parents were so troubled by this encounter with their son that they went as far as to file a restraining order against him although they later dropped it.

Help for the troubled

Photo by: trizoultro

Photo by: trizoultro

While the thought is plausible, it will never be known for sure if the murder of Ingrid Lyne could have been prevented. While many friends or family members may be surprised when someone close to them commits a heinous act, this is one case when there was a growing concern long before multiple lives were changed forever. For those who are in and out of the court systems for various crimes or for those who have anger management issues, alcohol and drug abuse problems, or other mental health concerns, there is help available. Please seek counsel with a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney regarding criminal charges and they can also provide you with information regarding mental health services in your area.