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What Is Criminal Charge Stacking?

Posted on November 29, 2021 in

If you get arrested in Massachusetts, you may expect to be charged with a crime. Unfortunately, however, something called criminal charge stacking could result in facing many different criminal charges – even several at once. This could significantly increase the penalties connected to the case against you. If you find yourself in this overwhelming situation, it is critical to contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer right away. Your future could be at stake due to this often-unfair practice.

What Is Charge Stacking?

Criminal charge stacking is when a police officer or prosecutor charges as many crimes against a defendant at once as they can. Law enforcement officers have full discretion over what crimes to submit against a suspect. In some cases, they put forth more charges than is fair for the situation, often in an attempt to strengthen the main case that the prosecutor wishes to pursue. 

The only law that works against criminal charge stacking is double jeopardy. Double jeopardy states that no person can be tried twice for the same criminal offense. However, a defendant can be tried and punished for two crimes if each contains an element that the other does not. In this way, double jeopardy is not a strong enough deterrent against charge stacking. It is easy for a prosecutor or police officer to go around this law by bringing numerous charges against the same suspect at once.

Why Is Charge Stacking Bad for Criminal Defendants?

Under certain circumstances, charge stacking may be called for and result in reasonable penalties against someone who has committed more than one crime in Massachusetts, such as robbery and assault with a deadly weapon. In many cases, however, the unlimited ability to stack criminal charges against a defendant leads to suspects who only committed minor offenses – or no crimes at all – suffering the full weight of the law for multiple crimes. In this way, charge stacking can be an unfair practice in which prosecutors gamble with the lives of defendants to win their cases.

With criminal charge stacking, a defendant is forced to fight against charges that may not necessarily fit the facts of the case. A defendant who is facing multiple charges is also less likely to walk away without a single conviction, as at least one out of many charges is likely to stick. In addition, if the defendant is found guilty of more than one crime, the courts can tack on additional jail time for each offense – sometimes resulting in a sentence that is unreasonable and excessive.

Overall, criminal charge stacking makes lesser-offending defendants look like serious criminals. It can ruin their lives with exorbitant legal expenses, lengthy court battles and amplified sentences. In many scenarios, a defendant facing multiple charges is pressured into taking a plea bargain because he or she believes the cost of hiring a lawyer to fight multiple charges will be too high. Hiring a good defense lawyer, however, could allow you to drop some or all of the charges against you immediately.

What Should You Do if You’re Being Charged With Multiple Crimes in Massachusetts?

If you are facing more than one criminal charge against you in Massachusetts, contact a Middlesex County criminal defense lawyer from Spring & Spring immediately for a free consultation. Our lead attorney can put over 20 years of experience as a former prosecutor to use on your behalf, helping you understand each criminal charge and the best possible defense options for your unique situation. A lawyer may even be able to have multiple charges dropped.

Criminal charge stacking is a dangerous problem that could increase a basic or low-level charge to a criminal case that could put you behind bars for many years. With so much at stake, you need a defense lawyer that you can count on to fight for your best interests. At Spring & Spring, we have achieved case acquittals for many past clients. Discuss your unique situation with us today for more information.