Multiple Prosecution and Punishment In California Law

In Burris v. Superior Court (1974) 43 Cal. App. 3d 530 [117 Cal. Rptr. 898], the defendant was charged in the same accusatory pleading with a misdemeanor, practicing law without a license, and two felony counts, grand theft and perjury. At his preliminary hearing in municipal court, the defendant entered a plea to the misdemeanor and was immediately sentenced to six months in county jail and a fine was imposed. The defendant later, after serving his sentence on the misdemeanor, moved to dismiss the information filed in superior court alleging the felonies, on the ground that section 654 prohibited multiple prosecution and thus multiple punishment for the felonies. The appellate court concluded section 654 did indeed apply to the three offenses and the defendant could not be subjected to multiple punishment. It concluded the municipal court had no jurisdiction to sentence the defendant since the crime alleged had been charged in the same proceeding as the felonies. Rather, the misdemeanor sentence should have been left to the superior court. However, despite the defendant's having served his sentence on the misdemeanor, the court concluded there was no violation of the proscriptions against multiple prosecutions because the charges were all set forth in one charging document and that if convicted for the felonies, public policy required he be sentenced on the greater rather than lesser crimes. (43 Cal. App. 3d at pp. 539-540.) To avoid multiple punishment, he should receive full credit for the time he served on the misdemeanor offense. (Id. at p. 539.) The court concluded, by stating: "Finally, we observe that, in spite of the fact that [the defendant] has served his sentence on the misdemeanor count, our holding that he nonetheless may be prosecuted on the felony counts is consistent with the sound administration of criminal justice.