If you are arrested for a criminal charge, you might look at your indictment or arrest record and be unpleasantly surprised to see several criminal charges listed. For example, if you are in a bar fight, you could be arrested for assault but also see charges for resisting arrest and drunken and disorderly conduct. You could also be charged with a much more serious crime than you initially thought. A charge for assault and battery could be aggravated assault or attempted murder. What has happened is that the police will put any and all possible charges on the arrest record and let the attorneys sort it out later. This is called “overcharging.”
Getting multiple charges for a single incident is not uncommon. Arrests for drug possession can frequently lead to multiple charges for the same offense. A charge for possession of drugs could also be possession with intent to distribute, possession within a certain number of feet from a school, possession of drug paraphernalia, etc. These are all separate criminal charges with separate penalties.
What You Can Do if You Are Facing Multiple Charges
After your criminal defense attorney has been able to research the facts of the case, it might be possible to have some of the charges dismissed. But this will depend on several factors including the evidence, witness’s testimony and whether this is a first time offense.
If the additional charges cannot be dismissed, there will be separate penalties for each crime. The judge will decide if the sentences are served consecutively or concurrently. Consecutively means that if you receive a sentence of 1 year and a sentence of 2 years, you would have to serve 3 years. Concurrently would mean that you would serve 2 years. It is up to the judge’s discretion what the sentence will be, but often if there are no prior offenses, a judge would allow the defendant to serve the sentences concurrently. In most cases, your criminal defense lawyer will ask to have the sentences served concurrently as part of the plea agreement.
The practice of overcharging can be devastating to a person who suddenly finds themselves facing multiple misdemeanors or even a felony charge. If you have multiple charges for essentially the same offense, it is vital to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. Your attorney will be able to recognize when a charge is not appropriate, and can help negotiate to have the charge dismissed. If the charge cannot be dismissed, then your attorney should try to have the sentences served concurrently during the plea bargaining process.