One of the worst—and most surprising—things about assault charges is that they often come with accompanying charges. This may come as a shock, but if you have been charged with an assault crime, you may find yourself facing additional charges as your trial progresses.
Cases that involve second-degree assault, for instance, will often get harassment charges tacked on to them as well. Similarly, a case involving first-degree assault may pick up an additional, less serious, charge of a second- or third- degree assault as it progresses.
Newspapers and TV news shows are flooded almost daily with stories about people facing “multiple charges” for various things, from assault crimes to drug crimes. It is not uncommon for certain crimes to come with certain lesser charges. But how exactly do these charges pile up?
There are many ways for an assault case to wind up involving multiple charges. Oftentimes, though, these charges are just constructs of the prosecution. Why do they do this?
First and foremost, multiple charges can give the prosecution leverage when it comes to plea-bargaining. Since multiple charges are more intimidating than an individual charge, defendants may be more likely to agree to a plea bargain in order to get themselves out of some of the more daunting penalties. Additionally, the prosecution could tack on multiple charges to make themselves seem generous, for instance by offering to drop one of the charges if the defendant agrees to a plea.
Prosecutors also know that multiple charges can also work against defendants in the eyes of the jury. First of all, a jury is more likely to view someone with multiple charges skeptically, because they assume that more charges must mean a worse person. And sometimes multiple charges allow juries to feel that they can straddle the fence by finding the defendant guilty of one charge while dismissing another.
Since multiple charges are often only tacked on for the prosecution’s sake, it is imperative for juries to bear in mind the main reason that a case goes to court. Consider, for instance, a case where an individual is arrested following a bar brawl. The man, after a few drinks, takes some swings at another patron, stumbles outside, and then punches somebody who was acting aggressively toward him. That last punch is what ultimately persuades an onlooker to call the police, and it is that last punch that onlookers cite to police when they come to pick him up.
If the case goes to court, the prosecution could potentially cite at least three separate charges: assault from those first few swings, public drunkenness for the quick stumbling outside, and finally battery for that last blow. These three separate charges would most likely end up confusing or distracting the jury from the real issue. It is the job of a experienced criminal lawyer to make sure that does not happen, and to keep the jury focused on the actual, relevant charge.
As a defendant in a criminal trial, you hope that after both your case and the prosecution’s case have been presented, the jury is able to make a fair and accurate judgment. But when your case involves two or more charges, your odds of fair and accurate judgment decrease significantly. The problem, of course, is that jurors are only human. When multiple charges are involved, it is easy for the jury to get confused and to forget which part of the case they are supposed to be focused on.
This is certainly not to say that jurors are incapable or unfit for the job. On the contrary, they are carefully selected specifically for their capability and trustworthiness. Still, the issue of multiple charges is inherently complicated, and can easily confuse anyone who has not had extensive legal training. Thus, it is absolutely imperative that you have a smart, knowledgeable lawyer who will be able to not only present a seamless argument for you, but will also be able to explain things clearly to the jury, making sure they know what is required to find you innocent or guilty for each charge. This involves finesse, skill, and fantastic communication skills.
If you have been charged with assault, it is up to you to make sure that you do everything in your power to defend yourself. The risk of being convicted of one assault crime is bad enough—don’t risk being convicted of more than one. Equip yourself with the best chance of success by hiring a smart lawyer with a proven track record. Contact us today to set up a free consultation.