Hand signing documentThis post is meant to explain the concept of “lesser included offenses” to Arkansas defendants. We feel it is necessary for those in our state to understand the topic because it has important implications in any criminal case. We decided to write on this topic due to a recent victory at our office and due to the frequent overcharging of cases by prosecutors.

Our office recently represented a defendant who had received a new trial. The client, who had been in prison since the 1990’s, had been sentenced to death for first-degree murder. After his new trial, the Jury found him guilty of a lesser included offense, second-degree murder, and he was sentenced to thirty-eight years in prison rather than death. We feel our client will gain parole soon and he will be able to resume his life.

Arkansas defendants should realize that, while they may be guilty of a crime, they may not be guilty of the crime with which they are charged

One may not necessarily be guilty of the crime they are charged with. In the example above, the defendant was convicted of second-degree murder even though the state of Arkansas had charged him with first-degree murder. Second-degree murder was considered to be a lesser included offense of first-degree murder; first-degree murder has the same elements of second-degree murder and also includes an element of premeditation. Because the requisite premeditation was not proven at trial, the defendant was convicted of a lesser charge.

The idea of lesser included offenses is very important in criminal law. It is common for one to commit a crime and to be charged with something greater than the crime they actually committed. Examples of this include being charged with homicide when one may have been guilty of the lesser crime of manslaughter. Other examples are common in cases involving violent crimes as defendants are often charged with having a level of intent which was not present at the time of the offense. The idea of lesser included offenses can be crucial to developing a defense strategy and to making the decision of whether to accept a plea bargain or to fight the charges at trial.

Lesser included offenses are an important issue as Arkansas defendants are often “overcharged” after having committed a crime

Arkansas defendants are often overcharged after having committed a crime. By “overcharged” we mean that defendants are often charged with offenses greater than the one they actually committed. This is done by prosecutors, in part, for the purpose of encouraging plea bargains. Another reason for which defendants are often excessively charged is political; prosecutor offices often need to look “tough on crime” for reasons of public perception. As a result it is common, for example, for a defendant to be charged with aggravated battery even though they may only be guilty of battery.

Hiring an attorney who understands the idea of lesser included offenses is critical to your future. Our Little Rock criminal defense lawyers have extensive experience in defending the accused through our state. Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation.