2001 Federal Sentencing Guideline Manual


§3D1.2. Groups of Closely Related Counts

All counts involving substantially the same harm shall be grouped together into a single Group. Counts involve substantially the same harm within the meaning of this rule:

(a) When counts involve the same victim and the same act or transaction.

(b) When counts involve the same victim and two or more acts or transactions connected by a common criminal objective or constituting part of a common scheme or plan.

(c) When one of the counts embodies conduct that is treated as a specific offense characteristic in, or other adjustment to, the guideline applicable to another of the counts.

(d) When the offense level is determined largely on the basis of the total amount of harm or loss, the quantity of a substance involved, or some other measure of aggregate harm, or if the offense behavior is ongoing or continuous in nature and the offense guideline is written to cover such behavior.

Offenses covered by the following guidelines are to be grouped under this subsection:

§§2B1.1, 2B1.4, 2B4.1, 2B5.1, 2B5.3, 2B6.1;
§§2C1.1, 2C1.2, 2C1.7;
§§2D1.1, 2D1.2, 2D1.5, 2D1.11, 2D1.13;
§§2E4.1, 2E5.1;
§§2G2.2, 2G2.4;
§2K2.1;
§§2L1.1, 2L2.1;
§2N3.1;
§2Q2.1;
§2R1.1;
§§2S1.1, 2S1.3;
§§2T1.1, 2T1.4, 2T1.6, 2T1.7, 2T1.9, 2T2.1, 2T3.1.

Specifically excluded from the operation of this subsection are:

all offenses in Chapter Two, Part A;
§§2B2.1, 2B2.3, 2B3.1, 2B3.2, 2B3.3;
§2C1.5;
§§2D2.1, 2D2.2, 2D2.3;
§§2E1.3, 2E1.4, 2E2.1;
§§2G1.1, 2G2.1;
§§2H1.1, 2H2.1, 2H4.1;
§§2L2.2, 2L2.5;
§§2M2.1, 2M2.3, 2M3.1, 2M3.2, 2M3.3, 2M3.4, 2M3.5, 2M3.9;
§§2P1.1, 2P1.2, 2P1.3.

For multiple counts of offenses that are not listed, grouping under this subsection may or may not be appropriate; a case-by-case determination must be made based upon the facts of the case and the applicable guidelines (including specific offense characteristics and other adjustments) used to determine the offense level.

Exclusion of an offense from grouping under this subsection does not necessarily preclude grouping under another subsection.

Commentary

Application Notes:

1. Subsections (a)-(d) set forth circumstances in which counts are to be grouped together into a single Group. Counts are to be grouped together into a single Group if any one or more of the subsections provide for such grouping. Counts for which the statute (A) specifies a term of imprisonment to be imposed; and (B) requires that such term of imprisonment be imposed to run consecutively to any other term of imprisonment are excepted from application of the multiple count rules. See §3D1.1(b); id., comment. (n.1).

2. The term "victim" is not intended to include indirect or secondary victims. Generally, there will be one person who is directly and most seriously affected by the offense and is therefore identifiable as the victim. For offenses in which there are no identifiable victims (e.g., drug or immigration offenses, where society at large is the victim), the "victim" for purposes of subsections (a) and (b) is the societal interest that is harmed. In such cases, the counts are grouped together when the societal interests that are harmed are closely related. Where one count, for example, involves unlawfully entering the United States and the other involves possession of fraudulent evidence of citizenship, the counts are grouped together because the societal interests harmed (the interests protected by laws governing immigration) are closely related. In contrast, where one count involves the sale of controlled substances and the other involves an immigration law violation, the counts are not grouped together because different societal interests are harmed. Ambiguities should be resolved in accordance with the purpose of this section as stated in the lead paragraph, i.e., to identify and group "counts involving substantially the same harm."

3. Under subsection (a), counts are to be grouped together when they represent essentially a single injury or are part of a single criminal episode or transaction involving the same victim.

When one count charges an attempt to commit an offense and the other charges the commission of that offense, or when one count charges an offense based on a general prohibition and the other charges violation of a specific prohibition encompassed in the general prohibition, the counts will be grouped together under subsection (a).

Examples: (1) The defendant is convicted of forging and uttering the same check. The counts are to be grouped together. (2) The defendant is convicted of kidnapping and assaulting the victim during the course of the kidnapping. The counts are to be grouped together. (3) The defendant is convicted of bid rigging (an antitrust offense) and of mail fraud for signing and mailing a false statement that the bid was competitive. The counts are to be grouped together. (4) The defendant is convicted of two counts of assault on a federal officer for shooting at the same officer twice while attempting to prevent apprehension as part of a single criminal episode. The counts are to be grouped together. (5) The defendant is convicted of three counts of unlawfully bringing aliens into the United States, all counts arising out of a single incident. The three counts are to be grouped together. But: (6) The defendant is convicted of two counts of assault on a federal officer for shooting at the officer on two separate days. The counts are not to be grouped together.

4. Subsection (b) provides that counts that are part of a single course of conduct with a single criminal objective and represent essentially one composite harm to the same victim are to be grouped together, even if they constitute legally distinct offenses occurring at different times. This provision does not authorize the grouping of offenses that cannot be considered to represent essentially one composite harm (e.g., robbery of the same victim on different occasions involves multiple, separate instances of fear and risk of harm, not one composite harm).

When one count charges a conspiracy or solicitation and the other charges a substantive offense that was the sole object of the conspiracy or solicitation, the counts will be grouped together under subsection (b).

Examples:(1) The defendant is convicted of one count of conspiracy to commit extortion and one count of extortion for the offense he conspired to commit. The counts are to be grouped together. (2) The defendant is convicted of two counts of mail fraud and one count of wire fraud, each in furtherance of a single fraudulent scheme. The counts are to be grouped together, even if the mailings and telephone call occurred on different days. (3) The defendant is convicted of one count of auto theft and one count of altering the vehicle identification number of the car he stole. The counts are to be grouped together. (4) The defendant is convicted of two counts of distributing a controlled substance, each count involving a separate sale of 10 grams of cocaine that is part of a common scheme or plan. In addition, a finding is made that there are two other sales, also part of the common scheme or plan, each involving 10 grams of cocaine. The total amount of all four sales (40 grams of cocaine) will be used to determine the offense level for each count under §1B1.3(a)(2). The two counts will then be grouped together under either this subsection or subsection (d) to avoid double counting. But: (5) The defendant is convicted of two counts of rape for raping the same person on different days. The counts are not to be grouped together.

5. Subsection (c) provides that when conduct that represents a separate count, e.g., bodily injury or obstruction of justice, is also a specific offense characteristic in or other adjustment to another count, the count represented by that conduct is to be grouped with the count to which it constitutes an aggravating factor. This provision prevents "double counting" of offense behavior. Of course, this rule applies only if the offenses are closely related. It is not, for example, the intent of this rule that (assuming they could be joined together) a bank robbery on one occasion and an assault resulting in bodily injury on another occasion be grouped together. The bodily injury (the harm from the assault) would not be a specific offense characteristic to the robbery and would represent a different harm. On the other hand, use of a firearm in a bank robbery and unlawful possession of that firearm are sufficiently related to warrant grouping of counts under this subsection. Frequently, this provision will overlap subsection (a), at least with respect to specific offense characteristics. However, a count such as obstruction of justice, which represents a Chapter Three adjustment and involves a different harm or societal interest than the underlying offense, is covered by subsection (c) even though it is not covered by subsection (a).

Sometimes there may be several counts, each of which could be treated as an aggravating factor to another more serious count, but the guideline for the more serious count provides an adjustment for only one occurrence of that factor. In such cases, only the count representing the most serious of those factors is to be grouped with the other count. For example, if in a robbery of a credit union on a military base the defendant is also convicted of assaulting two employees, one of whom is injured seriously, the assault with serious bodily injury would be grouped with the robbery count, while the remaining assault conviction would be treated separately.

A cross reference to another offense guideline does not constitute "a specific offense characteristic . . . or other adjustment" within the meaning of subsection (c). For example, the guideline for bribery of a public official contains a cross reference to the guideline for a conspiracy to commit the offense that the bribe was to facilitate. Nonetheless, if the defendant were convicted of one count of securities fraud and one count of bribing a public official to facilitate the fraud, the two counts would not be grouped together by virtue of the cross reference. If, however, the bribe was given for the purpose of hampering a criminal investigation into the offense, it would constitute obstruction and under §3C1.1 would result in a 2-level enhancement to the offense level for the fraud. Under the latter circumstances, the counts would be grouped together.

6. Subsection (d) likely will be used with the greatest frequency. It provides that most property crimes (except robbery, burglary, extortion and the like), drug offenses, firearms offenses, and other crimes where the guidelines are based primarily on quantity or contemplate continuing behavior are to be grouped together. The list of instances in which this subsection should be applied is not exhaustive. Note, however, that certain guidelines are specifically excluded from the operation of subsection (d).

A conspiracy, attempt, or solicitation to commit an offense is covered under subsection (d) if the offense that is the object of the conspiracy, attempt, or solicitation is covered under subsection (d).

Counts involving offenses to which different offense guidelines apply are grouped together under subsection (d) if the offenses are of the same general type and otherwise meet the criteria for grouping under this subsection. In such cases, the offense guideline that results in the highest offense level is used; see §3D1.3(b). The "same general type" of offense is to be construed broadly.

Examples:(1) The defendant is convicted of five counts of embezzling money from a bank. The five counts are to be grouped together. (2) The defendant is convicted of two counts of theft of social security checks and three counts of theft from the mail, each from a different victim. All five counts are to be grouped together. (3) The defendant is convicted of five counts of mail fraud and ten counts of wire fraud. Although the counts arise from various schemes, each involves a monetary objective. All fifteen counts are to be grouped together. (4) The defendant is convicted of three counts of unlicensed dealing in firearms. All three counts are to be grouped together. (5) The defendant is convicted of one count of selling heroin, one count of selling PCP, and one count of selling cocaine. The counts are to be grouped together. The Commentary to §2D1.1 provides rules for combining (adding) quantities of different drugs to determine a single combined offense level. (6) The defendant is convicted of three counts of tax evasion. The counts are to be grouped together. (7) The defendant is convicted of three counts of discharging toxic substances from a single facility. The counts are to be grouped together. (8) The defendant is convicted on two counts of check forgery and one count of uttering the first of the forged checks. All three counts are to be grouped together. Note, however, that the uttering count is first grouped with the first forgery count under subsection (a) of this guideline, so that the monetary amount of that check counts only once when the rule in §3D1.3(b) is applied. But: (9) The defendant is convicted of three counts of bank robbery. The counts are not to be grouped together, nor are the amounts of money involved to be added.

7. A single case may result in application of several of the rules in this section. Thus, for example, example (8) in the discussion of subsection (d) involves an application of §3D1.2(a) followed by an application of §3D1.2(d). Note also that a Group may consist of a single count; conversely, all counts may form a single Group.

8. A defendant may be convicted of conspiring to commit several substantive offenses and also of committing one or more of the substantive offenses. In such cases, treat the conspiracy count as if it were several counts, each charging conspiracy to commit one of the substantive offenses. See §1B1.2(d) and accompanying commentary. Then apply the ordinary grouping rules to determine the combined offense level based upon the substantive counts of which the defendant is convicted and the various acts cited by the conspiracy count that would constitute behavior of a substantive nature. Example: The defendant is convicted of two counts: conspiring to commit offenses A, B, and C, and committing offense A. Treat this as if the defendant was convicted of (1) committing offense A; (2) conspiracy to commit offense A; (3) conspiracy to commit offense B; and (4) conspiracy to commit offense C. Count (1) and count (2) are grouped together under §3D1.2(b). Group the remaining counts, including the various acts cited by the conspiracy count that would constitute behavior of a substantive nature, according to the rules in this section.

Background: Ordinarily, the first step in determining the combined offense level in a case involving multiple counts is to identify those counts that are sufficiently related to be placed in the same Group of Closely Related Counts ("Group"). This section specifies four situations in which counts are to be grouped together. Although it appears last for conceptual reasons, subsection (d) probably will be used most frequently.

A primary consideration in this section is whether the offenses involve different victims. For example, a defendant may stab three prison guards in a single escape attempt. Some would argue that all counts arising out of a single transaction or occurrence should be grouped together even when there are distinct victims. Although such a proposal was considered, it was rejected because it probably would require departure in many cases in order to capture adequately the criminal behavior. Cases involving injury to distinct victims are sufficiently comparable, whether or not the injuries are inflicted in distinct transactions, so that each such count should be treated separately rather than grouped together. Counts involving different victims (or societal harms in the case of "victimless" crimes) are grouped together only as provided in subsection (c) or (d).

Even if counts involve a single victim, the decision as to whether to group them together may not always be clear cut. For example, how contemporaneous must two assaults on the same victim be in order to warrant grouping together as constituting a single transaction or occurrence? Existing case law may provide some guidance as to what constitutes distinct offenses, but such decisions often turn on the technical language of the statute and cannot be controlling. In interpreting this Part and resolving ambiguities, the court should look to the underlying policy of this Part as stated in the Introductory Commentary.

Historical Note: Effective November 1, 1987. Amended effective June 15, 1988 (see Appendix C, amendment 45); November 1, 1989 (see Appendix C, amendments 121, 253-256, and 303); November 1, 1990 (see Appendix C, amendments 309, 348, and 349); November 1, 1991 (see Appendix C, amendment 417); November 1, 1992 (see Appendix C, amendment 458); November 1, 1993 (see Appendix C, amendment 496); November 1, 1995 (see Appendix C, amendment 534); November 1, 1996 (see Appendix C, amendment 538); November 1, 1998 (see Appendix C, amendment 579); November 1, 2001 (see Appendix C, amendments 615, 617, and 634).