The ''Multiple Victim Exception'' in California

In People v. Miller (1977) 18 Cal.3d 873, the defendant entered a store occupied by a salesman and a security guard and took jewelry at gunpoint, shooting the guard in the process. The defendant was convicted of burglary and robbery. The Supreme Court acknowledged that the defendant "entertained but a single criminal objective--to commit a theft of the contents of the jewelry store ... ." (Id. at p. 885.) However, the court held the defendant could be separately punished for the burglary and the robbery under the multiple victim exception. The court reasoned that although a burglary "does not necessarily involve an act of violence against any person" (Miller, supra, 18 Cal.3d at p. 886), the burglary was a violent crime for section 654 purposes, because the jury found the defendant inflicted great bodily injury on the security guard. (Miller, at p. 882.) In addition, the robbery was a violent crime against the salesman and the defendant had used a gun to perpetuate both offenses. Since there were two separate crimes of violence against two separate victims, section 654 did not apply. (Miller, at p. 886.) In People v. Centers (1999) 73 Cal.App.4th 84, the Court applied the reasoning of People v. Miller (1977) 18 Cal.3d 873to a case in which, unlike the present case, the defendant used a gun to enter a residence and then kidnapped one of several occupants. (Centers, at pp. 88-89, 99.) We held that although burglary "standing alone" is not a violent crime (id. at p. 99), "burglary is a violent crime for purposes of the 'multiple victim' exception when the jury finds that, in the commission of the burglary, the defendant personally used a firearm." (Id. at p. 88.) We concluded that since at least one of the occupants who was a victim of the burglary was not a victim of the kidnapping, the burglary and the kidnapping were two violent crimes against two different victims. Therefore, the multiple victim exception applied, and the defendant was properly sentenced to separate terms for the burglary and the kidnapping. (Id. at pp. 101-102.) This court in Centers explained: "the trial court's implied finding of multiple victims is supported by substantial evidence. Indeed, defendant does not argue otherwise. Raines was indubitably the victim of the kidnapping. Grundman was the victim (or at least a victim) of the burglary, because she lived in the home. Grundman also was a victim of defendant's menacing display of a firearm during the burglary. It could be argued that Raines, too, was a victim of the burglary and the personal firearm use. Nevertheless, there was at least one victim of the burglary and the personal firearm use who was not also a victim of the kidnapping. This was sufficient." (Centers, supra, 73 Cal.App.4th at pp. 101-102.) Finally, in People v. Robinson (1988) 198 Cal.App.3d 674 244 Cal. Rptr. 17 (Robinson), the defendant entered a motel room and assaulted the four occupants. (Id. at p. 676.) He contended section 654 precluded separate punishment for the burglary and two counts of assault. (Robinson, at p. 678.) Though the People conceded the crimes were parts of an indivisible course of conduct, the court held the multiple victim exception applied, because the jury had found true allegations that in committing the burglary, the defendant inflicted great bodily injury on the victims. Therefore, "the burglary was a crime of violence." (Id. at p. 681.)