By now, most of Michigan, if not most of the world, has heard about the water crisis in Flint, Michigan. This poor, majority black city northwest of Detroit, with a population of 100,000 had used water from the Flint River for 18 months while a new pipeline was under construction.
Attorney General Bill Schuette is charging a group of people with multiple charges related to the suppression of information about how the river water’s corrosive properties were not treated and the resulting blood tests showing elevated lead levels in the city’s children, especially. Several members of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality have been charged, specifically, with misconduct in office (felony) and willful neglect of duty (misdemeanor).
What does it mean to receive multiple charges?
There are many reasons you may have received multiple criminal charges. All of the charges may arise from one single incident or from a variety of intents related to the same crime.
Our job is to sort out what can seem like a tangled mess of charges to get at how the prosecution wants to shape its case for each charge. In cases such as the one above, a prosecutor may try to charge each defendant with every possible charge in the Michigan penal code. However, it may be possible to have one or more of the charges dismissed with a good legal strategy.
There is a double jeopardy clause in the 5th Amendment which prohibits anyone from being tried twice for the same crime. It was also written to prevent anyone from being punished twice for the same conduct – at least since 1873 when the high court ruled this to be the case.
For the purposes of a case such as the Flint case, a prosecutor must prove, and a judge must decide, that more than one intent was present in a single incident to make two or more charges stick. The main question to answer is whether the convictions – or potential convictions – arise from the same conduct. If both counts do arise from the same conduct, both charges can’t stand.
Do Multiple Charges and Convictions Mean Multiple Sentences?
The short answer to this question is yes and no. In cases where it’s clear that law enforcement was overzealous with charging, often some charges can be dismissed before a trial or, if the prosecution offers a plea bargain, if the defendant pleads guilty to one of the charges.
In cases where there is one intent, but multiple crimes committed – as in the case of one man who kidnapped a woman, drove her to the desert and raped her – because his intent encompassed both crimes, he was convicted of the crime that had a harsher sentence which was kidnapping, even though the rape was probably the worst of the two from the viewpoint of the victim.
In other cases, two crimes may have been committed and the defendant may have been convicted of both but he or she may be able to serve each sentence concurrently. That means that every day he or she spends in prison counts for each conviction.
If three crimes were committed that carried a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison, for a judge to sentence that person to serve the time consecutively would mean that person would spend 15 years in prison. A concurrent sentence would mean he or she would serve only 5 years.
Being charged with multiple charges can be a frightening and confusing experience. Here at the David J. Kramer Law Firm, PLLC, we have experience sorting out multiple charges, seeking to dismiss every charge we can, and defending all of your constitutional rights. Make sure you seek experienced legal advice right away if you are facing multiple criminal charges of any kind. Contact us today.
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