Criminal Law

Multiple Counts - Adjustments

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November 1, 2005GUIDELINES MANUALCh. 3 Pt. D


Introductory Commentary

This Part provides rules for determining a single offense level that encompasses all the counts of which the defendant is convicted. The single, "combined" offense level that results from applying these rules is used, after adjustment pursuant to the guidelines in subsequent parts, to determine the sentence. These rules have been designed primarily with the more commonly prosecuted federal offenses in mind.

The rules in this Part seek to provide incremental punishment for significant additional criminal conduct. The most serious offense is used as a starting point. The other counts determine how much to increase the offense level. The amount of the additional punishment declines as the number of additional offenses increases.

Some offenses that may be charged in multiple-count indictments are so closely intertwined with other offenses that conviction for them ordinarily would not warrant increasing the guideline range. For example, embezzling money from a bank and falsifying the related records, although legally distinct offenses, represent essentially the same type of wrongful conduct with the same ultimate harm, so that it would be more appropriate to treat them as a single offense for purposes of sentencing. Other offenses, such as an assault causing bodily injury to a teller during a bank robbery, are so closely related to the more serious offense that it would be appropriate to treat them as part of the more serious offense, leaving the sentence enhancement to result from application of a specific offense characteristic.

In order to limit the significance of the formal charging decision and to prevent multiple punishment for substantially identical offense conduct, this Part provides rules for grouping offenses together. Convictions on multiple counts do not result in a sentence enhancement unless they represent additional conduct that is not otherwise accounted for by the guidelines. In essence, counts that are grouped together are treated as constituting a single offense for purposes of the guidelines.

Some offense guidelines, such as those for theft, fraud and drug offenses, contain provisions that deal with repetitive or ongoing behavior. Other guidelines, such as those for assault and robbery, are oriented more toward single episodes of criminal behavior. Accordingly, different rules are required for dealing with multiple-count convictions involving these two different general classes of offenses. More complex cases involving different types of offenses may require application of one rule to some of the counts and another rule to other counts.

Some offenses, e.g., racketeering and conspiracy, may be "composite" in that they involve a pattern of conduct or scheme involving multiple underlying offenses. The rules in this Part are to be used to determine the offense level for such composite offenses from the offense level for the underlying offenses.

Essentially, the rules in this Part can be summarized as follows: (1) If the offense guidelines in Chapter Two base the offense level primarily on the amount of money or quantity of substance involved (e.g., theft, fraud, drug trafficking, firearms dealing), or otherwise contain provisions dealing with repetitive or ongoing misconduct (e.g., many environmental offenses), add the numerical

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