Multiple Prosecutions for the Same Offense in California Case Law

In Kellett v. Superior Court (1966) 63 Cal.2d 822, the defendant was standing on a sidewalk holding a pistol. He pleaded guilty to exhibiting a firearm in a threatening manner. Defendant was later charged with possessing a concealable weapon by a felon based on the same facts. (Kellett, supra, 63 Cal.2d at p. 824.) The court stated, "When, as here, the prosecution is or should be aware of more than one offense in which the same act or course of conduct plays a significant part, all such offenses must be prosecuted in a single proceeding unless joinder is prohibited or severance permitted for good cause. Failure to unite all such offenses will result in a bar to subsequent prosecution of any offense omitted if the initial proceedings culminate in either acquittal or conviction and sentence." (Id. at p. 827.) However, as the Court of Appeal explained in People v. Cuevas (1996) 51 Cal.App.4th 620, 624: "Kellett does not require, nor do the cases construing it, that offenses committed at different times and at different places must be prosecuted in a single proceeding." There, police purchased cocaine from Cuevas on two separate occasions. Her residence was subsequently searched, and cocaine and currency were seized. Cuevas was charged with possession of cocaine for sale, pled guilty, and served 90 days in the county jail. (Id. at p. 622.) A subsequent prosecution for the two prior cocaine sales was held to be permissible under section 654 and Kellett regardless of the fact that the prosecutor was aware of the prior sales at the time Cuevas was charged with possession for sale. (Cuevas, at p. 623.) Similarly, in People v. Ward (1973) 30 Cal.App.3d 130, 136, the Court of Appeal held that the same course of conduct did not play a significant part in the commission of two sex offenses committed against separate victims despite the fact that both offenses occurred in the same car during the same night. There, the defendant picked up the first victim at her residence, drove her to an alley, and forcibly raped her. (Id. at pp. 132-133.) He then placed her in the trunk and drove back to her residence to pick up her 17-year-old daughter, the second victim. (Id. at p. 133.) While driving, the defendant forced the second victim to orally copulate him; he then pulled over and raped her. (Ibid.) Initially charged with oral copulation in San Bernardino County, defendant pled guilty and was sentenced. Subsequently charged with kidnapping and rape in Los Angeles County, the trial court denied the defendant's motion to dismiss under section 654 and Kellett. (Ward, at p. 134.) The Court of Appeal affirmed. As the court explained: ". . . Kellett is expressly limited to cases in which 'the same act or course of conduct plays a significant part' in more than one offense. . . . Here, it cannot be said that 'the same acts or courses of conduct committed against the first victim played a significant part' in the sexual offense against the second victim. The crimes were committed at different locations, at different times, against different victims, and with different objectives. The mere fact that they occurred in defendant's vehicle during the same night does not connect them as parts of a continuous course of conduct." (People v. Ward, supra, 30 Cal.App.3d at p. 136.)