Supreme Court Upholds 5 Punishments For 1 Crime

Even if you don't watch Perry Mason re-runs, you've probably heard of the legal notion that you shouldn't be repeatedly punished for committing one crime.

I'm not sure if Amir A. Ahmed of Riverside County knew of the notion.

But this month the California Supreme Court ruled that it doesn't apply to him.

In August 2006, Ahmed shot his girlfriend once in the stomach with a .38-caliber handgun, a jury convicted him and Superior Court Judge Sharon J. Waters rendered five separate punishments.

Here's the prison punishment breakdown: four years for assault, three years for using a gun, four years for inflicting great bodily harm on his victim and two, one year sentences for two prior prison stints. That totals 13 years in the slammer for Ahmed.

A California Court of Appeal panel had previously ruled that Ahmed couldn't be punished for both use of a firearm as well as a great bodily harm enhancement. That panel reduced his prison term to 10 years, a move that didn't impress the state Attorney General's office, which successfully appealed.

The supreme court says that the state legislature sanctioned multiple punishment enhancements in cases such as Ahmed's.

"Sometimes separate enhancements focus on different aspects of the criminal act," wrote Justice Ming W. Chin in his 14-page opinion for a majority of his colleagues. "Here, for example, the personal use of a firearm and the infliction of great bodily injury arose from the same criminal act -- shooting the victim. The personal use of a firearm was an aspect of that act that, the legislature has determined, warrants additional punishment; similarly, the infliction of great bodily injury is a different aspect of a criminal act that, the legislature has determined, also warrants additional punishment."


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