Q: I have some questions about criminal charges. I don't understand the structure of charges.
I'm writing a fictional story about someone who broke laws on the federal and state level, and I'm using Georgia as the state law.
Let's say the accused was caught inflicting and trying to inflict physical harm on three officers during the booking process. The accused scratched two officers and bit one officer. The third officer came for backup, and the accused tried to harm the third officer but failed. The accused had an intent to kill, as they stated something along the lines of "I'll kill all of you," and they were in the right state of mind at the time of the crime.
Georgia law includes Simple assault, Aggravated assault, Simple battery, Battery, and Aggravated battery under article 2 of chapter 5 of title 16. Would the defendant be accused with Simple assault, Aggravated assault, Simple Battery, Battery, and attempted murder? And how many counts of each? Can the defendant be charged with Simple assault and Aggravated assault for each person?
A: You need to look at the factors that make up each crime. What you're describing is what sometimes is called "lesser included offenses." It allows a jury to find for a lesser crime instead of the main one for which a person is charged. Could each victim result in separate counts? Anything is possible. Is it likely? Not in my jurisdiction. Prosecutors have to prove each and every element of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Attempted murder for shouting a threat and trying to attack someone, is a stretch.
If you want your fictional defendant to face a hundred charge indictment, you can probably do that with your scenario, although realistically the state probably would want to boil that down for various tactical reasons that are too complicated for this format.
Take our Simple Battery statute:
OCGA § 16-5-23
A person commits the offense of simple battery when he or she either:
(1) Intentionally makes physical contact of an insulting or provoking nature with the person of another; or
(2) Intentionally causes physical harm to another.
You could have two simple battery counts, one referencing each subsection, for each of the three officers, totaling six counts of criminal conduct.
Your can also, simultaneously allege Aggravated Battery (OCGA § 16-5-24) against any number of the same officers.
When one crime is subsumed by another, or putting it another way - when the elements of one crime are totally included in a greater (more severe maximum penalty) crime, the two crimes "merge" (look up the Merger Doctrine) into the greater crime at sentencing, so not every aggravated battery conviction also carries a simple battery sentence on top of the aggravated battery sentence.
If you need more crimes to throw at your character, also consider Obstruction Of Law Enforcement (OCGA § 16-10-24) and Terroristic Threats (OCGA § 16-11-37).
1 user found this answer helpful
Justia Ask a Lawyer is a forum for consumers to get answers to basic legal questions. Any information sent through Justia Ask a Lawyer is not secure and is done so on a non-confidential basis only.
The use of this website to ask questions or receive answers does not create an attorney–client relationship between you and Justia, or between you and any attorney who receives your information or responds to your questions, nor is it intended to create such a relationship. Additionally, no responses on this forum constitute legal advice, which must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case. You should not act upon information provided in Justia Ask a Lawyer without seeking professional counsel from an attorney admitted or authorized to practice in your jurisdiction. Justia assumes no responsibility to any person who relies on information contained on or received through this site and disclaims all liability in respect to such information.
Justia cannot guarantee that the information on this website (including any legal information provided by an attorney through this service) is accurate, complete, or up-to-date. While we intend to make every attempt to keep the information on this site current, the owners of and contributors to this site make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information contained in or linked to from this site.