Normally, every separate act that violates one or more statutes gives rise to a separate offense.
In general, a person may be convicted of, although not punished for, more than one crime arising out of the same act or course of conduct. 'In California, a single act or course of conduct by a defendant can lead to convictions "of any number of the offenses charged." (People v. Reed (2006) 38 Cal.4th 1224, 1226-1227.)
However, "in a series of takings from the same individual, there is a single theft if the takings are pursuant to one continuing impulse, intent, plan or scheme, but multiple counts if each taking is the result of a separate independent impulse or intent." (People v. Packard (1982) 131 Cal.App.3d 622, 626.)
This rule is sometimes referred to as the "Bailey doctrine." (See, e.g., People v. Drake (1996) 42 Cal.App.4th 592, 596.)
People v. Bailey (1961) 55 Cal.2d 514, involved a defendant who engaged in multiple acts of petty theft, with the aggregate of the petty thefts amounting to over $ 3000 in public funds over one year. at the time of her conviction, the theft of property worth more than $ 200 was grand theft. (Bailey, supra, 55 Cal.2d at pp. 516-517.)
The trial court instructed the jury that "if several acts of taking are done pursuant to an initial design to obtain from the owner property having a value exceeding $ 200, and if the value of the property so taken does exceed $ 200, there is one crime of grand theft, but that if there is no such initial design, the taking of any property having a value not exceeding $ 200 is petty theft. " (Id. at p. 518.)
Defendant was convicted of a single count of felony grand theft. (Id. at p. 516.) Thereafter, she moved for a new trial and argued the instruction was erroneous.
The trial court granted defendant's motion for a new trial, and the People appealed. (Id. at pp. 516, 517.)
Bailey held the jury was properly instructed and reversed the court's order granting a new trial. (Bailey, supra, 55 Cal.2d at p. 520.)
Bailey noted the uncontroverted evidence showed defendant was guilty of theft, but "the question is presented whether she was guilty of grand theft or of a series of petty thefts since it appears that she obtained a number of payments, each less than $ 200 but aggregating more than that sum." (Id. at p. 518.)
Bailey held "the test applied . . . in determining if there were separate offenses or one offense is whether the evidence discloses one general intent or separate and distinct intents. . . . Where a number of takings, each less than $ 200 but aggregating more than that sum, are all motivated by one intention, one general impulse, and one plan, the offense is grand theft." (Id. at p. 519.)
Bailey further explained:
"Whether a series of wrongful acts constitutes a single offense or multiple offenses depends upon the facts of each case, and a defendant may be properly convicted upon separate counts charging grand theft from the same person if the evidence shows that the offenses are separate and distinct and were not committed pursuant to one intention, one general impulse, and one plan." (Ibid.)
Bailey's "single-intent-and-plan doctrine or test" has been consistently applied to theft cases involving a single victim. (People v. Tabb (2009) 170 Cal.App.4th 1142, 1149 (Tabb); In re David D. (1997) 52 Cal.App.4th 304, 309; In re Arthur V. (2008) 166 Cal.App.4th 61, 66, 68 (Arthur V.).)
Bailey clearly applies to situations where separate instances of misdemeanor theft may be aggravated to a single felony grand theft. (See, e.g., Arthur V., supra, 166 Cal.App.4th 61, 68-69; People v. Brooks (1985) 166 Cal.App.3d 24, 31; People v. Slocum (1975) 52 Cal.App.3d 867, 889.)
However, Bailey also has been extended to prevent a defendant from being convicted of more than one grand theft, where the takings were committed against a single victim with one intention, one general impulse, and one plan.
Several cases illustrate the application of this aspect of Bailey. for example, in People v. Richardson (1978) 83 Cal.App.3d 853 (disapproved on other grounds in People v. Saddler (1979) 24 Cal.3d 671, 682), defendant was convicted of multiple felonies, including four counts of attempted grand theft, based on "a scheme whereby City of Los Angeles Controller's warrants were obtained by an unauthorized means and made payable to fictitious commercial payees for amounts in excess of $ 800,000 each." (Richardson, supra, 83 Cal.App.3d at p. 858.)
Four separate warrants were forged in favor of different fictitious payees, and were going to be separately submitted through different intermediaries for payment. (Ibid.)