Many times individuals enter a lawyer’s office wondering why they have been charged with numerous counts of the same or similar offense. While it is not always the case, it is important to know what crimes will or may “merge” for sentencing purposes after trial and conviction. The legal explanation of merger of criminal offenses is detailed below, but the simple way to describe it is that when one crime merges with another, the defendant will only be sentenced on one – showing the obvious necessity of understanding this concept in practice.
To determine whether crimes merge for sentencing purposes, Merger of criminal offenses is governed by 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 9765, titled, “Merger of Sentences”, which provides as follows:
No crime shall merge for sentencing purposes unless the crimes arise from a single criminal act and all of the statutory elements of one offense are included in the statutory elements of the other offense. Where crimes merge for sentencing purposes, the court may sentence the defendant only on the higher graded offense. 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 9765.
Each case, crime, and factual scenario must be addressed. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has explained the basis for isolating the particular portion of a statute at issue when determining whether two crimes merge. The Baldwin Court stated:
“Therefore, while Section 9765 indeed focuses on an examination of “statutory elements,” we cannot ignore the simple legislative reality that individual criminal statutes often overlap, and proscribe in the alternative several different categories of conduct under a single banner. See, e.g., Aggravated Assault, 18 Pa.C.S. § 2702 (defining seven distinct violations of law); Involuntary Deviate Sexual Intercourse, 18 Pa.C.S. § 3123 (setting forth eight separate violations). Consequently, in such cases, we caution that trial courts must take care to determine which particular “offenses,” i.e. violations of law, are at issue in a particular case. See, e.g., Commonwealth v. Johnson, 874 A.2d 66, 71 n. 2 (Pa.Super.2005) (recognizing that a particular subsection of a criminal statute may merge with another crime as a lesser-included offense even though a different subsection of that same statute may not). Com. v. Baldwin, 985 A.2d 830, 836 n.6 (Pa. 2009).”
In a criminal case, it is important to have an attorney who understands these concepts and knows when to raise these issues and how to effectively and persuasively argue this to a Court if it is a situation where the Commonwealth does not agree. If you or a loved one has been accused, charged or convicted of a crime and are in need of legal help contact Mike DiCindio directly.
The above listed information does not include the entire crimes code, annotations, amendments or any recent changes that may be relevant. The information provided is for informational purposes only and may not reflect the most current legal developments. These materials are not intended, and should not be taken, as legal advice on any particular set of facts or circumstances. It is intended solely for informational purposes.
Michael D. DiCindio, Esq. is a West Chester criminal defense lawyer who represents individuals accused of crimes throughout all of Chester County, including West Chester, Phoenixville, Malvern, Coatesville, Paoli, Downingtown, Tredyffrin, West Goshen, Honey Brook, Oxford, Devon, Pottstown, Chesterbrook, Parkesburg, Kennett Square, and Avondale