When someone is accused of a crime, a prosecutor will write what’s referred to as an information that includes details about the alleged offense. In some cases, even though a single crime was committed, the defendant may be charged with multiple counts of it. For instance, the information might state that the defendant is being charged with 7 counts of illegal use of minor in nudity-oriented material or performance.
But what is a “count” and how can someone face several for one type of crime?
Defining a “Count”
A count is the number of charges for a single crime. Thus, if a defendant is charged with 7 counts of a child pornography-related offense, the prosecutor is alleging that the defendant has engaged in 7 different acts of that offense.
The alleged crime may have involved 7 different victims or the same victim who suffered 7 distinct types of harm. In a child pornography case, such as the example above, the defendant may have had on their computer, phone, or other devices 7 images of a minor (or minors) who was nude.
The Impact of Multiple Counts on a Sentence
Being charged with multiple counts of a crime does not mean the defendant will be convicted on each count. In Ohio, the law concerning counts and whether or not the defendant may be punished for each is very nuanced and complex. So much so that in 2015, the Ohio Supreme Court had to clarify what the State’s allied offenses statute meant.
Allied offenses are multiple crimes that arise from the same conduct. The prosecutor may list each as a separate count on the indictment, but at sentencing, the crimes would be treated as one. This means that, if the defendant was convicted of illegal use of minor in nudity-oriented images, a fifth-degree felony, they may only be sentenced to the maximum term of imprisonment of 12 months.
However, the defendant may be convicted for each separate offense (each count) if the crimes were:
- Of dissimilar import;
- Committed separately; or
- Committed with separate motivations
In 2015, the Ohio Supreme Court stated that if an indictment contains multiple counts and each count pertains to an offense committed against a separate victim, because the harm each victim sustained is distinct, the defendant could be convicted on multiple counts.
Additionally, if the offenses involve the same victim but the harm suffered was different in each incident, the defendant can be subject to multiple convictions.
Therefore, if someone is convicted on 7 counts of illegal use of minor in nudity-oriented material, they could face up to 84 months in prison (12 months for each of the 7 counts).
If you’re facing criminal charges in Dayton, Rion, Rion & Rion is here to guide you through your case. Call us at (937) 223-9133 or contact us online today.