Derek Chauvin has just been convicted of both murder and manslaughter for the same crime (killing George Floyd). I understand how one person can be charged with multiple offences for the same crime (because both can be proved to a jury), but how does this work with the conviction? Does the principle of ne bis in idem apply?
Sentences will be imposed for all three crimes (in eight weeks following preparation of a pre-sentence report, briefing and a sentencing hearing), but because they arise out of the same incident, will be served concurrently. Thus, one year in prison counts against the up to 40 years on the first count, the up to 25 years on the second count, and the up to 10 years on the third count, that is imposed.
In practice, the longest sentence (usually, but not necessarily the charge with the longest authorized sentence) is really the only one that matters if all three charges survive appeal. But separate sentences are important to determine what sentence is left in force if one or two, but not all three charges, are reversed on appeal. Since different charges have different elements that have to be proved, the possibility that some but not all charges could be reversed on appeal is a distinct possibility.
Ne/non bis idem doesn't apply in this case. Non bis idem covers multiple bases, but here's the basic ideas:
- You cannot, if found not guilty, be retried for the same crime, no matter the circumstances. This is the equivalent of double jeopardy.
- You cannot be punished twice for the same crime in the same respect. For example, if you murder someone, and you are found guilty, you are given the appropriate sentence, usually imprisonment and whatever else is entailed. But you only receive that one sentence for the crime. You cannot be given a second sentence for the same crime, to be served in addition to the first. At the same time, often one act can be both a crime and a civil offense. For example, in case involving someone's death, the family of the victim might file a civil suit for wrongful death, and seek civil liabilities. There may be an appropriate sentence here alongside a criminal sentence. That is to say, a murder is a crime with a criminal sentence; where wrongfully causing/contributing to someone's death, no matter the criminality, is a civil wrong that may be entitled to compensation under civil law.
- You cannot be tried for a crime in more than one court jurisdiction. For example, if you are put on trial in your state, not matter the outcome, you cannot be tried by the federal courts. Vice versa: if you are put on trial in a federal court, no matter the outcome, your state cannot bring you to trial.
In this case, Chauvin is not under double jeopardy, and he is not being tried in multiple jurisdictions. Because the sentences regarding his one act are concurrent and not consecutive, he is not actually being punished multiple times for the same crime. Rather, he is being convicted of, in one act, having fulfilled the criteria of several crimes. Since the sentences are concurrent, he is effectively only going to be punished for the most severe offense.
What is more interesting here is that a One-Act-One-Crime doctrine would throw something like this out. Illinois has such a doctrine, where for one particular criminal act, one must be convicted of only one charge. So, in Chauvin's case, Illinois could allow the prosecution to bring the three charges; but effectively, the jury would only be allowed to convict on one charge for the single act of what Chauvin did to Floyd. We may wish, as a society, to examine more broadly using such a rule.
Hope this helps.