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Answers to questions about lesser included offenses

| Aug 31, 2020 | Criminal Defense |

Some large crimes involve elements of other offenses that are smaller. If this is the case, a person charged with the larger crime may also face charges related to the smaller one. This is a lesser included offense.

If convicted of both the larger charge and the lesser included offense, a person could face penalties related to both. Therefore, one should understand lesser included offenses to get a clear picture of the consequences one faces if convicted.

What is a lesser included offense?

According to Cornell Law School, when the perpetration of one crime necessarily involves also committing a less serious one, the latter is a lesser included offense. For example, it is impossible to commit a burglary without first trespassing on someone else’s property. Therefore, trespassing is a lesser included offense of burglary.

Is conviction on one charge but not the other possible?

Because the larger crime involves elements of the lesser included offense, it is impossible to convict a person on the greater offense but not the lesser one. However, it is possible for a person to receive a conviction for the lesser included offense but not the greater one. It may also be possible for a person to plead guilty to a lesser included offense as part of a plea bargain that would dismiss the greater one.

Does the court have to charge the lesser included offense?

According to the New York State Senate, it is not an error for the court to fail to charge someone with a lesser included offense even if it has the authorization to do so. However, if the law allows for a lesser included offense and either party requests its submission, the court must comply.

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