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Name: People v. Corpening
Case #: S228258
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 12/29/2016

Penal Code section 654 precludes punishing defendant for robbery and carjacking where both offenses were based on a single act. Corpening pleaded guilty to carjacking, robbery, and other offenses for his role in the heist of $70,000 in rare coins from a dealer who was about to leave in his van for a swap meet. The trial court imposed a five-year prison term for the carjacking plus a consecutive one-year term for the robbery despite the prosecutor’s argument that the robbery sentence should be stayed pursuant to section 654. The Court of Appeal ultimately affirmed and the California Supreme Court granted review. Held: Reversed. Penal Code section 654 prohibits punishing an act under more than one provision when the act is punishable in different ways by different provisions of law. There are two steps for a section 654 analysis. First, a court considers whether the different crimes were completed by a single physical act. If there was only a single act, the defendant may not be punished more than once for the act. If the case involves more than a single act, the court moves on to the second step: whether that course of conduct reflects a single intent and objective, or multiple intents and objectives. (People v. Jones (2012) 54 Cal.4th 350, 358-359.) After reviewing cases, the California Supreme Court concluded that “[w]hether a defendant will be found to have committed a single physical act for purposes of section 654 depends on whether some action the defendant is charged with having taken separately completes the actus reus for each of the relevant criminal offenses.” Here, the same act completed the actus reus for carjacking and robbery. The forceful taking of the van and rare coins completed the actus reus for robbery (the felonious taking of another’s personal property by force) and it was precisely the same act that was the basis for the carjacking (the felonious taking of another’s motor vehicle by force). Since there was only a single act, section 654 requires the robbery sentence to be stayed.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: