When it comes to criminal charges, prosecutors are paid to bring people to justice for their crimes. This often means charging offenders with multiple crimes. They do this for a couple reasons. Most importantly, they may feel that they have a stronger chance of getting at least one of their charges to stick if they bring several together. They also sometimes do this because multiple convictions will enhance the penalties available. But whatever the reasons behind bringing multiple charges, it’s important to understand just how this can happen.
How Do Multiple Charges Happen?
The best way to explain how multiple charges happen is through an example. Consider a driver who got off work late, only to discover that his car would not start. He borrowed a co-worker’s car just to get home, but decided to stop for a couple beers on the way. On his way home, he got distracted momentarily and rear-ended another vehicle that contained several people, including a child.
Perhaps out of fear or just because he was afraid his insurance company would raise his premiums, the owner of the vehicle became defensive when the police contacted him about the accident, ultimately claiming he never let the friend use his car.
Charges Can Grow Out of Control
As you can see from the brief example above, the driver probably should be charged with DUI and perhaps a moving violation for causing a collision. But in this example, there are a number of more serious crimes with which a prosecutor could charge the driver. For instance, he could be charged with driving under the influence of alcohol, grand larceny, and even worse if the crash caused serious injuries or deaths.
Section 16-3-95 of the South Carolina Code provides penalties for intentionally harming a child. While auto accidents are generally excluded from this charge, there is an exception where a person drives a vehicle with reckless disregard for the safety of others. So, in our example, this driver who had a couple beers and borrowed a car could even face felony charges for inflicting harm on a child, depending on how much a prosecutor wanted to enhance the punishment.
Felony Murder Rule
Consider what happens if someone died in the car accident from our example above. If the prosecutor can prove that the driver was commiting a felony at the time, then the case could become a lot more serious very quickly. If it can be proven that he stole the car and was intoxicated while driving, this could potentially invoke the felony murder rule in South Carolina. The felony murder rule says that if you kill someone during the commission of an inherently dangerous felony, then you can be charged with First Degree Murder. Historically, this was applied to things like burglary or robbery, but it has been extended to a wide range of crimes that endanger the public.
Get Help Right Away
If you’ve been charged with a crime – even a seemingly minor one – you still need to speak with an attorney right away. The sooner you have an attorney involved, the sooner you can avoid potentially having multiple charges added. Working closely with a defense lawyer to build a defense strategy is the best way to avoid unfair or unnecessary criminal charges. Contact the David Aylor Law Offices today to speak with an attorney about your case.