by Brad Koffel
What happens when a person is charged multiple ways for the same criminal conduct? Can the person be convicted multiple times and receive multiple sentences? For example, a person is charged with stealing flat screen tv from an office. The police arrest "Donald" and charge him with theft and receiving stolen property, both felonies. Can Donald be prosecuted for both theft and RSP? Yes. Can he be sentenced on both? No, he cannot under the theory of Double Jeopardy - Similar Offenses, more commonly known as "Allied Offenses of Similar Import".
Ohio law codified this protection in R.C. 2941.25 which requires similar offenses to merge prior to sentencing to prevent a defendant from being convicted and sentenced on more than one criminal prohibition for a single criminal act. The choice, however, is the prosecutor's and not the judge's. The State must choose prior to sentencing which criminal code they wish the defendant to be sentenced under.
This area of law is confusing and case law continues to evolve. In fact, in 2009 the Ohio Supreme Court issued two important Allied Offenses decisions within 3 months of each other that clarified what offenses must merge.
If you or someone you know is being prosecuted on a multi-count indictment for a single criminal act, it is imperative that the defense lawyer be aware of Allied Offenses and Lesser Included Offenses (a similar topic).