California Penal Code Section 954 - Example Case

Penal Code Section 954 provides: "An accusatory pleading may charge two or more different offenses connected together in their commission, or different statements of the same offense or two or more different offenses of the same class of crimes or offenses, under separate counts, and if two or more accusatory pleadings are filed in such cases in the same court, the court may order them to be consolidated." ( 954.) In Kellett v. Superior Court (1966) 63 Cal.2d 822, the defendant was standing on a public sidewalk with a pistol in his hand. He was charged with and pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of exhibiting a firearm in a threatening manner. The Supreme Court held that this conviction prohibited a later prosecution for the felony of possessing a concealable weapon by a felon arising out of the same facts. The court analyzed section 954 and concluded, "By a series of amendments to Penal Code section 954 that have greatly expanded the scope of permissible joinder, the Legislature has demonstrated its purpose to require joinder of related offenses in a single prosecution. In addition to preventing harassment, joinder avoids needless repetition of evidence and saves the state and the defendant time and money. " (Kellett v. Superior Court, supra, 63 Cal.2d at p. 826.) The court went on to announce the rule against multiple prosecutions: "If needless harassment and the waste of public funds are to be avoided, some acts that are divisible for the purpose of punishment must be regarded as being too interrelated to permit their being prosecuted successively. When there is a course of conduct involving several physical acts, the actor's intent or objective and the number of victims involved, which are crucial in determining the permissible punishment, may be immaterial when successive prosecutions are attempted." (Id. at p. 827.)