A crime is any action society deems punishable by fines and/or imprisonment. Majority of crimes are divided into misdemeanors and felonies. When an individual commits more than crime at a time, they may be charged with all of the crimes or just one of them. If they are charged with only one crime, that crime is usually the most serious out of all of the crime.
A lesser-included offense is a term used in criminal law for a smaller crime that is contained within a larger crime. The defendant could not have committed the more serious criminal offense without committing the lesser charge.
An example of a lesser-included crime within a greater crime is larceny and robbery. Larceny, commonly called theft, is the tresspassory taking of the property of another with the intent to permanently deprive them and without their permission. Robbery is defined as larceny committed with the use of force, intimidation, or threat of violence. Thus, a person will commit larceny as well if they commit robbery. However, they will likely only be charged with robbery because it was the greater crime.
Courts usually look at the charging document alone. This document describes the criminal charges filed against the defendant. For instance, a defendant may be charged with assault with a deadly weapon and murder. Assault with the deadly weapon is the lesser-included charge.
In some jurisdictions, the lesser charge is determined by looking at the charging document and evidence presented by the state. If the prosecution charges a defendant with murder, evidence will also be presented to show the killing happened with a deadly weapon. The court will determine the murder charge is the greater charge.
Lesser-included offenses can be very important in a criminal case. If the lesser-included offense is not proven, then the criminal defendant will not be found guilty of the greater charge. If you are being charged with a crime that contains lesser-included offenses, contact a criminal attorney to learn more about your rights with regard to them.