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Crimes such as possession of drugs and weapons, or speeding, can continue for long periods of time if not interupted.

If evidence of the crimes comes to light later, what sort of rules limit the count of convictions that can be made?

For instance if illegal drugs are possesed for a long time, can that be more than one count of posession? What if the same drugs are posessed, discarded, and then picked up again?

Or if a weapon is illegally posessed in a public place, can there be a separate count each time the defendant goes into the public place?

If somoene speeds in a motor vehicle over a long distance can that give rise to multiple speeding offences?

I've posed multiple questions here but I'm curious about the general principles that may apply, hence posting as one question.

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  • I realise long distance uninterupted speeding can be prosecuted as multiple offences via automatic speed cameras placed along the route. But it seems there must be some limit to how close together these can be placed - it would be patently unjust to be prosecuted separately for every millimeter of travel. The question is about how that limit is determined.
    – bdsl
    Feb 6 at 18:51
  • IIR there was a case in UK many years ago of a motorist who drove into a village exceeding the speed limit, dropped to within the law, and then exceeded the limit before leaving the village. The police successfully brought two speeding prosecutions, but if the driver had sped right through the village, it could only have been one – for a more serious offence. Feb 7 at 0:57

4 Answers 4

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That is what the term "representative charge" is for.

Similar charges may be joined ("amalgamated") into one representative charge, or a representative charge may be divided into separate ones (s 21). Whatever the court sees fit.

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For instance if illegal drugs are possessed for a long time, can that be more than one count of possession?

Generally, a continuous period of possession would be one count, and in practice, usually only an instance when someone is caught red handed in possession is usually charged.

What if the same drugs are possessed, discarded, and then picked up again?

In theory, that could be an issue. In practice, it almost never comes up as only the possession at the time of a search or arrest is charged in the vast majority of cases.

Or if a weapon is illegally possessed in a public place, can there be a separate count each time the defendant goes into the public place?

Usually, a continuous period of possession would be charged as a single count.

Also, in sentencing, when there are multiple counts, sentences for multiple counts arising from the same nucleus of facts and circumstances, call it the same course of action or event, are usually served concurrently, so that only the longest sentence matters, rather than consecutively, although there are exceptions, for example, in cases where there are multiple victims of certain violent crimes.

If someone speeds in a motor vehicle over a long distance can that give rise to multiple speeding offenses?

Speeding is almost always charged as a single offense at the time someone is stopped for it, in practice. Someone on a long trip who is stopped multiple times (often in different states) could get multiple speeding citations, in multiple stops, however.

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    Someone who speeds away from the officer after getting a ticket can get multiple citations in a matter of minutes.
    – Mark
    Feb 8 at 4:08
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    Thanks, nice answer. Don't automatic speed cameras change the situation for speeding? They don't make the defendant stop immediately. It would be great if you could add details of authoritative any court cases where these issues have been disputed - e.g. prosecution has attempted to lay multiple counts and courts have ruled some out.
    – bdsl
    Feb 8 at 10:19
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The German terms are Tatmehrheit and Gesamtstrafe. Multiple crimes can be judged concurrently, the sentence will fall between the highest individual penalty and the sum of all penalties.

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    I'm not sure if this is the same thing. I'm asking about something that could be seen as one crime that continues over multiple times - like possessing one object illegally for a long period of time or repeatedly - not multiple acts done at the same time.
    – bdsl
    Feb 7 at 10:39
  • @bdsl, multiple acts at the same time would be Tateinheit, not Tatmehrheit, I think.
    – o.m.
    Feb 7 at 16:54
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A parking ticket, for the same offense, cannot be issued more than once a day. In fact, I don't believe if 2 tickets are issued, both can be entered into the computer system tracking them.

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    Does that mean you could get a ticket at 23:59 and another ticket at 00:00? Or does there have to be 24 hours between the tickets? Is this something written into law or something that's been disputed and the courts have created a rule about?
    – bdsl
    Feb 7 at 15:39
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    @bdsl. I think it's a calendar day, but I am not sure. But if you get a ticket during 3 hours when you can't park on a street, don't remove the ticket until the 3 hours are over. Or they can write another one even though they'll have to deal with the fact that they can't enter it into their computer system tracking the tickets. They are allowed to make clerical mistakes though. So they might just enter it as a different offense and you'll be forced to deal with the mismatch of the offense in the ticket and in the computer. I am speaking from experience.
    – grovkin
    Feb 7 at 15:47
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    @bdsl But if the question is how often can you get a ticket if you leave your car parked next to a fire hydrant (which is illegal at all times), my best guess would be once during each calendar day unless you remove the ticket.
    – grovkin
    Feb 7 at 15:57
  • "In fact, I don't believe if 2 tickets are issued, both can be entered into the computer system tracking them": surely not every city uses the same computer system, and surely getting a ticket for parking in front of a fire hydrant or violating a parking meter doesn't give you license to park in front of fire hydrants or violating parking meters everywhere in the city for the rest of the day.
    – phoog
    Feb 8 at 0:53
  • @phoog it's not a license because the car can be towed. Tickets also have addresses on them. So the violation is cited at a specific date and time and location. In fact location has to be mentioned in the citation because it's a parking violation. And the complaining witness (the cop) has to be able to prove that it is illegal to park at that location at that time. Computer systems probably do vary, but they are designed the way they are designed in order to streamline compliance. It's also feasible that some towns' ordinances are not restricted to 1 citation per day. But some are.
    – grovkin
    Feb 8 at 3:49

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