Penal Code Section 654 California Case

In People v. Smith (1977) 70 Cal. App. 3d 306 [138 Cal. Rptr. 783], the defendant was found guilty of first degree murder after submitting the case to the court for decision based upon the reporter's transcript of the preliminary hearing. On appeal, he argued section 654 precluded sentencing him for that crime because he had previously been convicted of, and was serving a sentence on a final judgment for, a robbery arising out of the same course of criminal conduct from which the murder arose. (70 Cal. App. 3d at p. 316.) The court observed that at the time the defendant was prosecuted for the robbery, the prosecutor was not aware of the potential murder charge. The court concluded that to avoid equal protection problems and anomalous results in such circumstances, section 654 "by necessary implication" authorized the trial judge to modify the judgment in the first conviction in order to stay the execution of the sentence as to that conviction to avoid multiple punishment. (70 Cal. App. 3d at p. 317.) In People v. Breland (1966) 243 Cal. App. 2d 644 [52 Cal. Rptr. 696], the court addressed the application of section 654 to those situations where felonies and misdemeanors are prosecuted by different agencies and where a defendant might attempt to plead guilty to the misdemeanor in order to prevent a subsequent prosecution on the felony charge. The court held that section 654 does not bar a subsequent felony prosecution except to the extent that such prosecution is barred by the section's preclusion of multiple punishment. (243 Cal. App. 2d at pp. 651-652.) The court recognized that the prohibition against multiple punishment is satisfied by a provision in the judgment that the defendant be given credit for the time served on the misdemeanor sentence. (People v. Breland, supra, 243 Cal. App. 2d at p. 652, fn. 3.)