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What is a lesser included offense?

On Behalf of | Mar 27, 2022 | Criminal Defense |

Little else can ruin your life more than criminal charges. After all, depending on the seriousness of the charge, you may lose your freedom, forfeit certain rights or pay hefty fines. If a judge or jury convicts you, you also are likely to have a criminal record for the rest of your life.

Sometimes, the consequences you face for a criminal conviction hinge on the instructions a judge gives to the jury. For this reason, it may be advisable to ask the judge to explain lesser included offenses to jury members.

One part of a larger crime

In American criminal law, some crimes are more serious than others. Theft, for example, involves stealing someone else’s property. If you break into a home to steal, however, you also may be guilty of burglary.

Because of the serious nature of burglary, its penalties are harsher than those for theft. Still, to commit burglary, you may have to commit theft at the same time.

Your criminal defense

As reporting from Time confirms, prosecutors often charge defendants with the most serious crimes they can. When preparing your criminal defense, though, it may be advantageous to try for a conviction or a lesser included offense.

Juries are often uncomfortable with deciding between only guilty and not guilty. If a judge tells them about lesser included offenses, members of the jury may convict you of the lesser offense instead of the more serious one. Asking for a lesser included offense instruction has its own risks, though.

Ultimately, if your conviction is for a minor offense rather than for a major one, its overall effect on your life may be significantly more tolerable for you.

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