Penal Code section 654 precludes imposition of sentence for corporal injury to a spouse (Pen. Code, § 273.5, subd. (a)) where the act was part of a course of conduct that was the basis for defendant’s torture conviction. Mejia was convicted of torturing his wife (Pen. Code, § 206) and other offenses, including spousal abuse (Pen. Code, § 273.5, subd. (a)). He received a life sentence plus a consecutive term for the spousal abuse. He challenged the additional term imposed for the spousal battery on appeal. Held: Sentence stayed. Penal Code section 654 provides that an act or omission that is punishable under different provisions of law shall be punished under the provision which provides for the longest potential sentence, but may not be punished under more than one provision. This section precludes multiple punishment not only for a single act that violates more than one statute, but also for an indivisible course of conduct. The question is whether the intent and objective attending more than one offense during a continuous course of conduct was the same. If the offenses were merely incidental to or were the means of facilitating one objective, defendant may be punished only once. “Torture can be committed either by a single act or by a course of conduct.” Here, the prosecutor argued the offense of torture was based on a course of conduct involving multiple discrete acts, i.e., the individual acts, taken together, were the means of committing the torture. There is no evidence that the final assault on the victim, during which Mejia hit his wife on the head, was either separated in time from the rest of the acts that constituted the torture offense or in some was distinct from those acts. Section 654 precluded imposition of a separate sentence for the spousal abuse.
The full opinion is on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/E062962.PDF