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.

Squatter Charged with Aggravated Assault for Chasing Homeowner with Machete

A squatter has been charged with numerous offenses including aggravated assault for chasing the homeowner away with a machete.

Surprised homeowner

Photo by: Marcelo Braga

Photo by: Marcelo Braga

A Kearns Utah family came home to an unwanted holiday surprise when they returned to inspect the damage of their home after it suffered a terrible fire earlier in December. The homeowner noticed a car in the driveway and once inside, called out to the uninvited guest. They then observed the man leave the house and decided to follow him outside. It was there that the squatter, 25 year old Scott Thomson appeared with a machete threatening the homeowner with bodily harm.

Aggravated Assault

Although Thomson didn’t actually hurt the homeowner, the fact that he threatened them with harm is what brought the assault charges. Utah code 76-5-102 states that even attempting to do someone harm is considered assault. Adding what code 76-5-703 states is a “deadly weapon” raised that offense to aggravated assault. Threatening to do harm without causing bodily injury is assault, a class B misdemeanor. Making that same threat while holding a machete is aggravated assault, a 3rd degree felony. Charges of course increase if there is essentially harm done to the victim.

Aggressive, high, or scared?

It is unknown what Thomson’s state of mind was when he chased the homeowner away with a machete. There were drugs found at the scene and it is entirely plausible that he was under the influence of narcotics. Whether he acted out of aggression toward someone crashing his solo house party of out of fear of being caught didn’t matter to the responding officers. Once he advanced toward the homeowner while holding the machete he was facing aggravated assault charges. Acting unwisely in the heat of the moment is a precursor to many charges, including assault and aggravated assault. Requesting the aid of a criminal defense attorney will help bring all the surrounding factors into consideration before the judge decides on sentencing and punishment.

Shoplifting for the Holidays

With little to no cash to spend for the holidays, many consumers resort to shoplifting for the things they want.

Shoplifting team effort

Photo by: Robert Sheie

Photo by: Robert Sheie

A St. George Utah couple was arrested earlier this month after they attempted to flee Christensen’s clothing store with over $500 worth of jeans. After pushing their way past the store owner, both individuals are facing charges for assault and theft. While many cases of shoplifting are due to something wanted such as multiple pairs of jeans, occasionally people are caught shoplifting for items truly needed.

Stealing the necessities

Photo: Gabriela Pinto

Photo: Gabriela Pinto

An Orem Utah mom was apprehended for shoplifting when officers discovered she was stealing groceries for her children whom she was the sole provider for. Instead of charging the single mom for shoplifting, Orem police officers saw a family in need and helped the mother and children with food and gifts just in time for the holidays. While the single mother is not facing charges currently, the store from which she stole still has the option to press civil charges. Hopefully they will show her the same kindness the officers did.

Larceny

Photo by: Mike Mozart

Photo by: Mike Mozart

Shoplifting is defined as a type of larceny from a store or place of business. Shoplifting is rarely excused such as it was for the single Orem Utah mother. The majority of people facing shoplifting charges end up in court. Depending on the amount and the type of the items stolen, shoplifting charges can range from a class B misdemeanor for items totaled under $500 to a second degree felony if the shoplifted item was a firearm. For help in dealing with shoplifting or another type of theft charge, contact a criminal defense attorney.