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Orlando Criminal Defense Lawyer > Blog > Criminal > Can You Be Punished Multiple Times for the Same Criminal Act?

Can You Be Punished Multiple Times for the Same Criminal Act?


The United States and Florida constitutions both prohibit “double jeopardy.” You probably know this means a person cannot be tried for the same crime after they have already been acquitted by a jury. But it also means that a person cannot be punished twice for the same offense if convicted.

Of course, it is possible for a single criminal act to produce multiple charges. For example, if a person commits robbery and then punches their victim in the face, they can also be tried for battery. And if convicted of both robbery and battery, that person can be constitutionally sentenced for both crimes.

Florida Supreme Court: Shoving, Siccing Pit Bull on Police Officer Separate Crimes

In order for multiple punishments not to violate double jeopardy, the two offenses must be “the same in law and and in fact,” according to the United States Supreme Court. With that in mind, the Florida Supreme Court recently looked at whether a defendant accused of attacking the same police officer twice during an arrest constituted two separate criminal acts for purposes of sentencing.

The case before the Court, Trappman v. State, started when officers arrived at the defendant’s home. At first, the defendant was not in any jeopardy. The officers were there to arrest the defendant’s wife. They asked the defendant to wait outside with his two dogs.

Once outside, however, the state alleged that the defendant “began to rile up the dogs by banging their heads together and yelling at them.” The defendant then attempted to re-enter his house with the dogs. The defendant then physically shoved a police sergeant. The officer tried to move the defendant back towards the door and out of the house. The defendant then let go of one of his dogs with the instruction, “dog up, dog up.” The dog then bit the sergeant’s leg.

Prosecutors charged the defendant with battery of a law enforcement officer (for the shove) and aggravated battery of a law enforcement officer (for the dog bite).

The question before the Supreme Court was whether or not this was a single criminal act–subject to a single punishment–or whether the shove and the dog bite were separate crimes subject to separate punishments. The Court determined they were separate offenses, even though both batteries involved the same victim and took place over the span of roughly one minute. Critically, the Court found the defendant’s actions resulted from “successive impulses to commit a battery.” First, the defendant shoved the sergeant. He then decided to “escalate his violence against the officer” by unleashing his dog. While this might have been a “common stream of action” that did “not mean the conduct involved only one criminal act.”

Contact the Joshi Law Firm Today

Simple battery is usually a misdemeanor in Florida. But when battery involves a deadly weapon–even an unleashed dog–or the victim is a law enforcement officer, a defendant can quickly face felony charges. So it is important to work with an experienced Orlando battery defense lawyer who can review your case and advise you of your options. Contact the Joshi Law Firm, PA, today to schedule a free consultation.



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